Points In Between

Welcome to Points In Between - an exploration of immigration, school, and American identity.

This 10-episode podcast features interviews with people who came to the United States as students and experienced America through its schools. Points In Between begins from the premise that schools are sites where America, and Americanness, are constructed on a daily basis. Young newcomers who learn about America by attending school have a valuable and interesting perspective - about education, immigration, and American identity. 

Each episode focuses on a different aspect of the newcomer student experience. 

Further Exploration

This episode features some statistics about the student population of the US. To learn more, check out the National Center for Education Statistics.


Points In Between in also available on Apple Podcasts, HERE.

Episode 1: Leaving Home

All the newcomer students who find their way to American classrooms have one thing in common: the experience of leaving home. This episode explores six different accounts of that shared experience.

Voices in this Episode
Shiraj, Caroline, Roya, Omar, Yesica, and Ruth.

Note to teachers: There are a couple of instances of profanity toward the end of this episode. If you'd like to use a version with those words silenced, play the version below.

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Episode 2: A Day in the Life

This episode explores the contours of school days outside the US. It turns out a "regular" day at school can mean pretty different things from one place to another.

Voices in this Episode
Juliana, Lingerr, Siobhan, Tobias, Xuhui, Mia, Angel, Simon, Daniel, Ra'ouf, Omar, Selena, Shiraj

Further Exploration

Check out the school Shiraj attended, the Lawrence School, Lovedale

"The Czech Education System" from the Czech Embassy in Dublin

"Double shifts and lousy hours: Are Brazil's schools holding it back?" from The Christian Science Monitor

"Syria's Students: Going to School in a War Zone" from The Atlantic

Episode 5: The Great Equalizer

This episode delves into the history behind American public schools. Why did we establish public schools and how is that motivation connected to our school practices? Can this help explain some of the differences in education from country to country?

Voices in this Episode
Selena, Serafin, Mia, William, Angel, Shiraj, Roya, Vishnu, Juan, Yesica, Ruth, Lingerr, Siobhan, Juliana

Further Exploration

This episode touched on a lot of topics.

For more on the history of American public schools:

American Educational History: A Hypertext Timeline

“School Days” from the Backstory Radio podcast

Thomas Mann's Twelfth Annual Report to the Board of Education (1848)

For more on testing in education:

"Exams Around the World" a photo essay from The Atlantic

"Lessons From the Past: A History of Educational Testing in the United States" from Testing in American Schools: Asking the Right Questions

“Pass/Fail: An American History of Testing” from the Backstory Radio podcast

"U.S. Tests Teens A Lot, But Worldwide, Exam Stakes Are Higher" from NPR

For more on inequalities in education:

"The Decline in Intergenerational Mobility After 1980" from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis

"The Decline of the 'Great Equalizer'" from The Atlantic

"The Problem We All Live With, Part 1" and "The Problem We All Live With, Part 2" from This American Life

"Raj Chetty in 14 charts: Big findings on opportunity and mobility we should all know" from Brookings

"The Return of School Segregation in Eight Charts" from Frontline

"Three Miles" from This American Life

"Updating ‘No Child Left Behind:’ Change, or More of the Same" from Origins

Episode 6: Behave!

This episode explores the relationship between students and the people on the other end of the equation at school: their teachers. Expectations about student and teacher behaviors are both powerful and - often - unspoken.

Voices in this Episode
Cat, Ra'ouf, Serafin, Lingerr, Roya, Juliana, Ruth, Yesica, Harry

Further Exploration

"19 states still allow corporal punishment in school" from The Washington Post

"Where Corporal Punishment Is Still Used In Schools, Its Roots Run Deep" from NPR

Episode 7: "Me in English"

This episode explores language as a feature of identity, as an obstacle to be overcome by students, and as an entree into many parts of American society. We begin with a surprisingly complicated question: What is the most widely spoken language in the world?

Voices in this Episode
Tobias, Lingerr, Ruth, Roya, Yesica, Ra'ouf, Caroline, Angel, Juliana, Omar, Cat

Further Exploration

"American Indian Boarding Schools Haunt Many" from NPR

"The Bilingual Education Act: Twenty Years Later" from National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition and Language Instruction Educational Programs, part of the US Department of Education

"Boarding Schools" from the exhibit Native Words, Native Warriors at the National Museum of the American Indian

"The Complicated History Behind California's Vote on Bilingual Education" from Time

"The most spoken languages" from the ESL-Language Studies Abroad blog


Episode 8: Here and There

This episode looks at the small (and sometimes big) things people notice and adapt to as they settle into a new place. You'll hear about nostalgia, curiosity, and adaptation. Also, we'll consider our interviewees in a broader historical context.

Voices in this Episode
Xuhui, Julianna, Selena, Ruth, Roya, Ra'ouf, Lingerr, Siobhan, Juan, Shiraj, Yesica, Omar

Further Exploration

Africa's Discovery of Europe by David Northrup

"The Chinese student experience in America, with Siqi Tu and Eric Fish" from the Sinica podcast

Codeswitch podcast from NPR

"French Child Ambassadors in the East" from the 15 Minute History podcast at UT Austin

"Marco Polo and His Travels" from The Silk Road Foundation

Episode 10: American

This final episode of Points In Between explores two questions: Do you feel like you're American and, if you do, what does that mean to you? 

Voices in this Episode
Shiraj, Omar, Ruth, Roya, William, Tobias, Caroline, Cat, Jessica, Serafin, Lingerr, Juan, Ra'ouf, Selena, Vishnu, Simon, Yesica

Further Exploration

"A Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge, 18 June 1779" written by Thomas Jefferson

Educate podcast from APM Reports

Onclass, a peer-to-peer tutoring network founded by Vishnu & friends

"The History of Mexican Immigration to the U.S. in the Early 20th Century" from the Library of Congress Insights blog

"U.S. Immigrant Population and Share over Time, 1850-Present" from the Migration Policy Institute

Analysis of immigration data from the US and the world, from Pew Research Center

Your Story

Do you have a story of moving to the United States and attending an American school? Record your own audio answer to one of the interview questions below and post it on social media using the hashtag #PointsInBetween.

1. How did you find out you would be moving to the United States? Did you take part in making the decision or did it come as a surprise to you? What do you remember about leaving home? How old were you when you arrived in the US?

2. Walk us through a typical day of school in your country of origin.

3. How did you think the United States was going to look? What, if anything, surprised you when you arrived?

4. Can you describe your first day of school in the US?

5. What would surprise your US classmates about school in your country of origin?

6. Describe your interactions with a teacher before you came to the US. Do teachers and students behave the same way in your US school(s) as they did where you came from?

7. What language(s) did you speak when you arrived in the United States? Do you feel like you are a different person in the different languages you speak?

8. What kinds of things do you change about your behavior as you move from home to school? Is your home culture very different from your school culture?

9. How did you make your first American-born friend? And if you haven't yet made an American-born friend, why do you think that is?

10. Do you feel like you are American? Do you want to feel American? And if so (or if not), what does "American" mean to you?