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The University of Texas at San Antonio Online Magazine

Building a Sense of Community

Michael Cirlos III '11

Michael Cirlos III wants to break down barriers. He wants people to talk to each other more and better understand different cultures. "I really feel like when you create a world in which people can interact with each other regularly throughout the day and interact with people of a different culture," he says, "then there are more opportunities to better understand the environment you are in. I think if you don't have that, we are really missing out."

So he decided to do something about it.

Cirlos took inspiration from the popular photography project Humans of New York and in 2012 created Humans of San Antonio. He chose downtown as his focus because of its walkability but also because he's trying to showcase a part of the city he thinks is undervalued.

"I'm happy that it's reached 4,000 fans on Facebook," he says. "I don't know how big or small that is. I really can't say. It's cool that people comment and like the photographs."

Cirlos discovered his love of photography while living in Thailand for two years and later in Holland. After moving back to San Antonio to finish his bachelor's in psychology at UTSA, he became unsure about his decision. He missed what is termed sabai sabai in Thailand, a phrase that is more than just words; it's a way of life. "It's Thai slang," he explains. "It means, essentially, Relax, it's all good."

But more than that, he says, is the sense of community that he felt in Thailand. People live where they work or within walking distance. Or maybe they take a tuk-tuk, a three-wheeled rickshaw. There's a neighborly feeling that he missed.

"Instead of complaining, I thought how can I get involved and what can I do? And when I ran across Humans of New York, I thought I would do that and see if it works."

UTSA helped him with the culture shock of his U.S. return, especially in reacclimating him to the less than sabai sabai attitude of America. "I had a great experience, I had some really cool professors and, honestly, UTSA taught me a lot of discipline."

–Michelle Mondo


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