For most people, one of the more tedious and time-consuming parts of their tenure at university is the commuting.

Whether you’re living close-by or relying on public transportation to get there, much of your time will be spent travelling. That’s why it’s essential to have something to break up the monotony of daily commuting. To keep your mind distracted – you may often use music to achieve this. Most people, including myself, default to this when travelling. However, you can only listen to the same songs so many times before you need a change of scenery. Storytelling podcasts may be the answer.

As a university and college student, listening to storytelling podcasts every single day ensured that every waking moment wasn’t wasted. You may already have one or two podcasts in your wheelhouse. However, I’m here to turn your attention to one particular kind – storytelling podcasts. I’ve personally found that listening to a podcast with a mystery or intrigue angle to it is more beneficial to you mentally. After all, it’s healthy to keep your brain engaged in something, even during the duller parts of the day.

And so, for your consideration; here are 5 storytelling podcasts you may want to give a listen to:

5. Radiolab

Genre: Non-fiction, Educational
Average length of episode: 30-60 minutes
Available on: All podcast apps and sites
Perfect for: Learning something new every day

Many an afternoon of mine has been spent giving a listen to Radiolab. Originally a New York public radio show, Radiolab has evolved into a worldwide smash-hit podcast. Every week they focus on a new topic related to science, philosophy, politics and entertainment. In these discussions, they focus in on one particular story related to these subjects. While that may sound vague, that’s almost on purpose since Radiolab covers such a broad spectrum of experiences in our world. One episode may be about K-Pop, and the next may be about how pigeons helped allied forces in World War 2. But that’s my absolute favourite thing about Radiolab. It keeps you on your toes so you can never guess what you’ll be learning about next.

4. Grounded with Louis Theroux

Genre: Non-fiction, Interview 
Average length of episode: 60-90 minutes
Available on: BBC Sounds
Perfect for: Louis Theroux fans (no surprise there)

Our experiences with COVID and the numerous lockdowns over the past year and a half have provided so many hardships and grief. However, for some, it’s been an opportunity to ground themselves and wake up to realise what really matters in life. Grounded with Louis Theroux focuses on this very idea. He uses the opportunity presented by global COVID lockdown to interview key figures in the world of entertainment. Using such an opportunity like COVID to speak with celebs may seem inappropriate and out of touch, given the circumstances. However, Louis approaches the interviews with his usual tact and professionalism. He gives them the ability to delve into intimate details of their lives and how they’re coping with the pandemic. Whether you’re intrigued by his line-up of guests or not, Grounded is well worth the listen.

3. Welcome to Night Vale

Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Sci-fi
Average length of episode: 20-30 minutes
Available on: All podcast apps and sites
Perfect for: Stephen King fans, Stranger Things fans

If you’ve seen every Stranger Things episode, and read every Stephen King book, you’ll no doubt be left wanting more. To have something that comes close to filling the void between the next instalment(s). Welcome to Night Vale may just be that very void-filler for you. As a recognisable classic in the podcasting world, Night Vale has been around since 2012. However, much like most King novels, age hasn’t slowed down its impact one bit. Taking place in the mysterious fictional town of Night Vale, the podcast covers the town’s spooky on-goings. Night Vale is presented as a local news radio station from inside the town itself. The narrator chronicles local bulletins and news items, all of which carry a certain paranormal tone.

Due to its local radio concept, the podcast is extremely immersive. To the point where you’ll no doubt be drawing your own theories and conclusions in no time. As storytelling podcasts go, you’ll be hard pressed to get more of a fictional sci-fi romp than this.

2. Serial (Season One)

Genre: Non-fiction, True Crime
Average length of episode: 60 minutes
Available on: All podcast apps and sites
Perfect for: Fans of True Crime Netflix documentaries

It would not surprise me if many of you have already heard of or listened to this one. Back when it launched in late 2014, this was the podcasting world’s equivalent of Tiger King or Making a Murderer. It made waves almost instantly and became a hot button subject online. While I don’t want to spoil or divulge too much about what’s in store for you here, I can give a basic premise. Serial covers the 1999 murder of 18-year-old high schooler Hae Min Lee in Baltimore, USA. While that already seems far too heavy and raw to be able to listen to casually everyday, the podcast’s tone and presentation may surprise you.

While they never shy away from the heartbreak and anguish surrounding her death, much of the podcast takes on an investigative mystery angle. However, it never really feels exploitative in any way. It manages to stay relatively respectful at all times.

The circumstances surrounding Hae Min Lee’s death are decidedly unusual and are still hotly-debated to this day. Podcast host Sarah Koenig takes a magnifying glass and fine tooth comb to this mystery. Over 12 hour-long episodes, she tries her best to find the answers and draw her conclusions. For those looking to get their true crime fix this season, Serial cannot be missed.

1. The Moth

Genre: Non-fiction, Spoken Word
Average length of episode: 60 minutes
Available on: All podcast apps and sites
Perfect for: Anyone and everyone

My final storytelling podcast suggestion is a bit of a left turn compared to the others. The others that I’ve mentioned are all essentials. However, this is one that I believe to be a TRUE essential that everyone should give a listen no matter their special interests. The past year and a half of COVID and lockdowns will make listening to this podcast all the more poignant. This is because, The Moth is a podcast all about human beings and our experiences. Every week, a handful of every day strangers take a public stage crowded with attendees and tell a real, raw story from their life. Whether this is a childhood experience, an emotional hardship or just a funny anecdote from the other week.

The sheer range of stories that are told on The Moth’s stage are extraordinary. In fact, according to the website, over 34,000 stories have been told by people on their stage since the launch in 2009.

COVID and everything surrounding it may have you longing for and missing human interaction in every day life. However, I promise you that giving The Moth a listen will give you a seamless transition back to normal life and make it seem like the people you miss never left.

In Conclusion

Whether storytelling podcasts may be your thing or not, I implore you all to give each of these a try. If none of these take your fancy, I recommend conducting your own search. There are countless storytelling podcasts online, with more cropping up every day. With so much to choose from, there really is something for everyone out there.