Capstone Presentations: Nico and Being Present

March 20, 2019
Emma StiefelFellow Voices

At the conclusion of Year On’s 2018 Fall Semester Experience, each fellow gave a capstone presentation of what they’d learned during the past four months. This is a summary of what Nico S., one of the fellows, shared.

Nico’s rehearsal of his capstone presentation didn’t go well. He froze up and forgot what to say. Many others would have gotten frustrated at this point, but Nico decided to take a step back and think about what was going on. He realized that preparing a speech wasn’t something that came naturally to him; he loved having conversations with people, but not memorizing slides and talking points. Instead of planning out his entire presentation, he would be better at communicating what he wanted to say if he let himself speak how he normally would.

Nico’s plan worked: that anecdote about preparing for his presentation, which he began his speech with, shows how much more self-aware he’d become throughout his gap semester with Year On. He’d learned how to reflect on his feelings and behaviors and adjust what he was doing to best serve his needs in any given moment.


Nico’s journey to self-awareness began in Peru, where he started to spend less time on his phone and more time fully immersed in the exciting new place he now found himself in. He started to feel much healthier mentally and physically. “I realized that [what had made me feel worse back home] was comparing myself to other people,” Nico said. In Peru, on the other hand, he was “fully present and aware of what was around me, which was a lot of great things.”

One of those great things was the school for special needs kids where Nico volunteered. Working with these students, many of whom came from low income families, helped him realize that less really is more. Back in America, Nico had always loved material things — especially clothes. Interacting with the children with special needs helped him understand that what was actually important to him was “being connected to these people that I would have never met if it it wasn’t for Year On.”

Nico in Peru.

Nico then moved to San Francisco, a challenging place for him to test out his new attitudes towards self-awareness and mindfulness. Unsurprisingly, the heart of Silicon Valley had plenty of flashy new technology, trendy clothes, and fancy cars to pull Nico back into his old habit of materialistically comparing himself to others. His first few weeks in the city were rough.

But Nico soon returned to what he now knew mattered to him the most: being present with the people around him and continually working to improve his life. He ended his gap semester confident in his ability to listen to himself and stay grounded.

You can watch Nico's capstone presentation here:

Learn more about Year On.

Start charting your own educational path. Subscriber to learn more about Year On and get exclusive updates about our gap year programs.

Thank you for subscribing! Keep an eye on your inbox for the latest Year On updates.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Related Posts