For Saif Choudhury, laughter has been the best medicine—and also part of his academic pursuit. Yes, he is an English Honors major with a concentration in Creative Writing at City College, and he is studying journalism, but that only tells part of the story of this Stuyvesant High School graduate. Saif is also pursuing a career as a standup comedian. His father suffered a debilitating stroke during open heart surgery when Saif was 8-years old, leaving his dad unable to perform the simplest tasks, such as tying his shoes. It rocked Saif’s young world.
“I remember helping my father with his physical therapy one day, when he asked me to pause and have a seat. He told me, ‘Saif, I can’t work anymore, and your mom can’t work either, because she has to stay at home and take care of you and me. We’re not going to have too much money moving forward. So, everything you get in life, it has to come from you. You’re going to have to earn everything yourself, especially when it comes to going to college.’ Given how anxious I was even at that age, I spent the next couple of years crying. I realized that I would be different from most of my peers, and I just wanted to fit in.”
Cue Saif’s successful admission to the tuition-free Macaulay Honors College, and college was no longer a financial burden. Outside the classroom at Macaulay, Saif has spent his time working for of the Zahn Center to implement Gol, a social-impact startup organization that aims to bring clean water to impoverished and underdeveloped communities. Saif also has studied abroad in Athens.
But he also had to find humor in the world, which led him to studying as an Upright Citizens Brigade Training Diversity Scholar to hone his comedic skills, and he became an Improv Your Life Scholarship recipient from the People’s Improv Theater. Saif has performed standup comedy several times at the Gotham Comedy Club.
“I don’t know of any other college that would actually offer me money to go take comedy classes. Even though I didn’t know I would pursue comedy when I first entered college, I knew that there is no place that would help me figure out my trajectory in life other than Macaulay. I am forever indebted to Macaulay for all of the opportunities it has provided me with.”
Although Saif’s parents arrived in the U.S. with college degrees from their native Bangladesh, neither was able to pursue their professional careers. His mom’s plans to be a lawyer ended before her arrival here.
“She met my father when he went to visit Bangladesh, married him in 1993, and moved to the U.S. later that year. My mom always tells me that she and my father had such a happy life… until I was born…”
That’s the family’s dry humor that has maintained them as a unit and for which Saif has been able to move forward positively. He also credits his college, classmates and surroundings in lifting his spirits.
“Instead of letting me collapse under the pressure of college, Macaulay said, ‘Hey. I got you. Let me worry about the money. You only worry about learning as much as you can.’ Because of everything it has done for me and the path it has carved in my life, Macaulay will always be the source of my happiest accomplishments.”