Industry Spotlight: Moving Oolong, The Podcast
By: Hannah Zozobrado
Ethnic cuisines, involvement in our cultural communities, learning and relearning our native language and heritage—these are just a handful of strategies we use to keep in touch with our own cultural identity. As for Sally Feng, Ming Gault, and Linda Kuo, they’ve discovered another way to do this: a podcast.
Feng, Gault, and Kuo met in high school. From there, the three Asian Americans all attended the University of Maryland, where they joined student organizations like the Taiwanese American Student Association and found themselves among many Asian American peers.
Moving Oolong debuted in Dec. 2019, the winter of their senior year of college, but they continue to record their discussions and let their unique backgrounds give their episodes dimension. Their creative and intriguing episode titles range from “Let’s Define the Relationship” to “Bao Appétite.”
The founders' professions give their conversations some depth as well: Feng works for a post-grad research lab and fellowship at the National Cancer Institute, Gault does social media marketing for a Non-Profit, and Kuo works at a Pediatric Non-Profit. Their distinct personal experiences all perfectly diverge into their weekly podcast topics, focusing on the perspectives of Asian American women.
Moving Oolong is also something that the three alumnae genuinely find fun as they happily abide by their schedule (record on Wednesdays, and post the following Monday). Simply put: their podcast gives them an excuse to have quality conversations with their closest friends amid their busy schedules. They find that it’s also an entertaining way to document their experiences and fond memories, like a time capsule.
Photo courtesy of the Moving Oolong team.
MM: How did you get the idea to start a podcast?
MG: We were inspired by a bigger podcast called Asian Boss Girl, a podcast with East Asian American women and they just talk about their lives. I love hearing the stories from the perspective of Asian American women, but I wanted to hear more from a college student or someone who recently graduated because I was going through that and was nervous about post-grad.
SF: It happened during Thanksgiving break last year. We were kind of bored and we didn’t want to study for finals [laughs], so we started coming up with ideas. We thought we should start a podcast while we were still in college so we can document our transition into our working lives.
MM: What kind of content does Moving Oolong cover?
LK: Our name is Moving Oolong, so this podcast is going to follow us as we move through post-grad and hopefully through our stages of life. We predict that our content will change and adapt as we do. That’s the main concept driving our content. Whatever is happening in our lives is a learning experience that we want to document and reflect on.
MM: How do you come up with discussion ideas every week?
SF: Sometimes it’s a struggle to plan episodes. At this point, we’ve run out of things we initially planned to talk about. But now that we’re working, it’s a new experience and a new environment.
MG: As Sally said, we kind of ran out of our formalized ideas, but one reason I’m motivated to keep doing this is that it’s the only time that I have scheduled where I get to talk to my friends [laughs]. To me, Sally and Linda are my best friends, but we’re busy and we’re trying to social distance so it’s hard to hang out. Having this time and this podcast makes it almost like an excuse to talk to my friends. I think that helps shape the topics we discuss.
MM: What are your respective backgrounds?
SF: My mom is from Hong Kong and my dad is from Guangzhou. I’ve had some American influences growing up, but there were also a lot of traditional family influences. We once talked about when we realized that we were Asian while growing up, and for me, it was pretty early on: I realized that my culture was different from mainstream culture. At first, I felt embarrassed, but it was a big change going to college.
LK: My parents were also first-generation immigrants and they passed down their culture to me. I try to get pretty involved and try to learn more in my own time. Going into college, we had a lot of Asian peers our age, which is a unique experience. It’s a lot different from just having a culture with your parents because you’re also having a culture with your friends.
MG: My upbringing is a lot different from the two of them since I was adopted by a single white mother, so I grew up not knowing anything. I think for me personally, I started learning more and picking up from my friends—going to their homes, making dumplings. I started learning, through food initially, a lot about Chinese culture.
MM: What does Moving Oolong mean to you?
MG: When we started in December, we had no idea what was to come in 2020. In my mind, it was just like, ‘We’re about to graduate, I’d love to remember this time in our lives.’ But the challenges of graduating during a pandemic and finding your place in the world after graduation are so much harder and there are so many nuances now. Moving Oolong sounds like we’re moving even though sometimes I feel like I’m not moving at all. But I’m trying to keep the mindset that we’re still going.
LK: For me, Moving Oolong is also a source of stability for me and something I can look forward to every week. I’m really glad we have this space set out, especially when there are so many unknowns. Sometimes it’s hard to stay connected in isolation and quarantine. I would say yes, while it’s kind of ‘stuck’ like Ming said, we’re going to hope that we can keep moving on to the best of our capacity.
SF: And in addition to it being something to look forward to, I think it’s also something to look back on and something to leave behind: we try to sprinkle some advice into our episodes for our listeners who might be younger than us, and maybe even for future generations.
MM: Is there anything you’d like to say or any advice you’d like to share with younger Asian Americans now that you’re out of college?
MG: Coming in as a freshman, I pressured myself a lot to explore, grow, get out there, make new friends, and grow my identity. But it takes more time than you think. I didn’t find the people that I got along best with until early junior year. Some advice I’d give is that it’ll take time, and that’s okay.
SF: One thing I've learned and have tried to practice throughout college is not to compare myself to others. Instead, I compare myself to my own growth. You might see some people getting internships early on or joining labs or something, but I think if you go at your own pace, you can get to where you want to be. There’s no rush.
LK: Sally’s comment earlier about future generations got me thinking, like ‘Oh my God, future generations... No way’ [laughs], but I think that one thing that I’d like to pass along is that in college, especially for Asian American women, you’re part of a long line of ancestors. Something I heard recently is that ‘We’re now ancestors in training’; We’re getting ready to pass on what we know to the people that come after us, and I think that’s a comforting thought. If we just keep passing on our collective knowledge, then I feel like a positive change will accumulate at the end.