I woke up to the sound of my mobile phone shrilling. You know that moment when you are in deep, sweet sleep and the phone just starts ringing. It was my best friend calling to lament that she had been posted to Benue state for her NYSC (National Youth Service Corps) Program. Benue State? A place that had no internet enthusiasts, no online shopping, no Shoprite! It is a 21st-century nightmare.
She is off to camp this week in a flying fit of white shirts and white rubber shoes and I just thought to write about all the advice I gave to her that you would not ordinarily see in a typical “NYSC CAMP LIST”.
Find New Friends
It is always easier to get through a hurdle when you have familiar faces with you. Find former course mates, colleagues, friends and neighbours that are heading to your camp. You can plan a trip and itinerary with them to either save cost or feel more comfortable. Trust me, there are fewer things more terrifying than being thrown into NYSC camp full of thousands of people from all parts of Nigeria and ‘the abroad’ without the welcome sight of a familiar face.
Don’t Over Pack
It may be tempting to pack like you are going to be away for war and the great depression. But, it is only 21 days (including the last day where you head out to your Place Of Primary Assignment), and it will do you good and save you some luggage space if you pack what’s necessary and then maybe just a little more. That pressing iron, that pair of high heels, that extra outfit won’t be necessary and may even be confiscated at the entrance of the camp. Just a few outfits for Church on Sunday and that is all you need. You can save that extra space for food and provisions. As long as you have all your NYSC orientation requirements that are indicated on the list, every other thing is for a fashion show that will never happen.
Go to Bed Early
You’re going to be waking up at 3:30 to prepare for the parades at 4. Therefore, it is in your best interest to go to bed as early as you can. If you spend idle time staying awake, you will still have to get out of bed early and you will be tired all day.
Don’t Wear Your White on the First Day
I know you’re trying to be enthusiastic and bring your big energy to NYSC camp especially on the first day. But here’s how it usually plays out. When you walk in with your all-white NYSC camp outfit, the soldiers assume you’re ready for all the action. So they send you straight to the field to begin your march. You’re already coming from what I assume to be a long trip and you really don’t want a 3-hour long unnecessary exercise. When you come in with your regular outfit, they assume you haven’t been given your whites and so they leave you to complete your registrations.
You can’t really expect an ATM in a village in Adamawa state that is not often used to be reliable. You have to anticipate that it won’t be. Have a rough idea of the amount of money you will spend in camp and carry cash. You should know that your first ‘allowee’ will be paid to you in camp and it will be paid in cash. So, do the maths and figure out how much more you may need. And then get padded up! An extra tip will be to get a fanny pack that you can carry around to hold all your cash and cards and other valuable. (But of course, you have heard this tip before.)
Now that we have a few tips at hand, I wish you the best camping experience ever. Have fun (not too much fun, as you don’t want to get carried away and lose anything). Meet new people (a few marriages have come out of this otherwise harrowing experience). And make memories.