I hope everyone's doing great. I was reading @Temiville's blog (http://temiville.wordpress.com/) and she mentioned that she's starting Bar 1 in a couple of weeks. I remembered when I was about to start I had a million and one questions for my friends who were writing finals! All foreign students have to do the Bar 1 course in Abuja campus. Unfortunately there's no information on the NLS website which is a shame because people come a wide variety of backgrounds to the shock that is NLS! So here's my mini guide to Bar 1:
Location, Location, Location: Contrary to what you see on the website, NLS is not in Abuja city, its in Bwari which is one of the major 'towns' in FCT. But its really a village. Its about a 30-40 minutes drive from the main city and has absolutely nothing other than Law school. Its mostly made up of people from Jos, Niger, Southern Kaduna, Benue and its indigenous Gwari people. Its majorly an agricultural village with no running water. There isn't a single landmark there other than NLS. I came straight from the airport to Bwari, and trust me its a big shock. So get your minds ready.
Dress Code- Students are only allowed to wear white/black shirts and a skirt for ladies, black trousers and black tie for men with black shoes. They might allow the occasional grey or navy blue. They absolutely do not faff about with the dress code and you are to look 'sober' as a barrister. There are 'marshalls' that stand at the door of the auditoriums where you get lectures who asses if your dressing is acceptable enough to enter class. Loud accessories are not allowed and your hair should always be pulled back. It is not your interest to test these rules because they have been putting people in check for years and will not hesitate to embarrass you at the door and send you back to get changed. They can also seize your badge and give you a query. In bar 1 they are a lot more relaxed, but its better to form the habit of obedience as early as possible. 99% of the time its ladies that get in trouble. To save you humiliation leave your polka dots, stripes, chiffon and ruffled blouses at home. Stick to plain white or black shirts preferably short sleeve but not sleeveless. Zara, HnM, M and S, T.M Lewin, H and C and Dorothey Perkins always have well fitting plain formal wear. A couple of well fitting blazers are a must and jackets for guys.
Everyone tests their luck at some point and even if you get past the marshalls, a lecturer can send you out of class, humiliate you in front of the class or worse put a query in your file. I have a query because I was feeling cool with my new weave and didn't pull it up! The notorious Mrs Adegoke saw me and believe me, its not worth it! You are allowed to wear traditional wear on Friday which is always fun!
Classes- Classes start from 9am till 1am in bar 1. The modules are Criminal, Constitutional, Nigerian Legal System and Nigerian Land Law. For those like me, that didn't take Evidence or Commercial at University, you have to take these extra classes on friday. I know it may not seem so when you start it but Bar 1 is a breeze. You just have to learn a large number of case-law but its generally straightforward. Don't waste your money buying loads of textbooks as the handouts and your class notes are enough. Don't bother reading outside the cirriculum or reading cases in the library. Infact I'll advice you to relax up until a month before the exam! As long you are attending classes you are over half way there. You are supposed to sign attendance everyday which supposedly counts to your final grade, although I doubt it does in Bar 1. Do try to participate in class, group work and make at least one presentation.
Accommodation: NLS provides accommodation on campus for all students. Its divided into blocks for boys and girls. Each room houses 2 people and you share a bathroom and toilet with the adjacent room. The four of you make up a flat. You need drums for storing water and buckets for bathing as the water hardly ever runs. There have been loads of complaints over the issue to management and theories as to why it doesn't run. Some say its to make money for the women who fetch water or cause its too expensive to pump. You'll get used to it.
For people like me that never went to boarding school I learnt A LOT about conserving water as it seems cheap at first but the bills start to add up!
Each room has a 'helper' or as they call it 'your person' who fetches water for you each morning from the pump. Some people fetch the water themselves and save themselves the N50 per bowl. Me and my roomie averaged about 400 per day on water. The helpers also clean, do laundry and random errands for a fee. They are usually really sweet women but you must not let them overcharge you because you are a 'butter'!
The hostels usually have a saloon or resturant in each block and a common room with a t.v.
Unlike Jand where you can live in the same apartment with guys, guys are not allowed to enter female hostels except to the common room, and they have to leave by 8pm. Same goes for girls although the male hostels are a lot more lenient.
Its actually very secure, and we never ever had an incident of theft. There were some allegations in the boys hostels but in mine we got really comfortable. We would leave our doors open and go out for hours without any fear. Contrary to what you might presume the staff do not steal, any theft would probably by a student. You are meant to submit your key to reception when you leave your room to avoid any issues.
There's a large list of electrical items you are not allowed to bring in. When I first came I brought a mini fridge but this isn't allowed although you can keep it in the common room and lock it up. No toasters, mini grills, t.v, rice cookers etc but people do sneak them in. Just hope it doesn't trip the power because then everyone will have your head!!
Electricity, like in every part of Nigeria can be epileptic in Bwari. The generators are turned on from 6pm till 1am which is very decent. They are also usually turned on when we are in class.
When its rainy season, (which is the time Bar 1 will be starting) living on the ground floor can be a nightmare as the floor is constantly wet, however the ground floor always has electricity when the other floors don't. I actually prefer the ground floor though a lot of people don't. You can also live off campus with some people commuting everyday from Abuja town. This is do-able in Bar 1 as classes finish early. There are 2 hotels opposite the school which some people lodge at. But these are expensive options and require a car.
Hostel life is A LOT of fun! There's always something going on, and I've made some really great friends. As this was my first hostel experience I think anyone with an open mind will be able to adapt easily.
Geographics- For those that have never lived in Abuja, it is HOT. Bwari is a 10minute ride from hell in the dry season. The heat is hard to describe but it usually feels like the sun is right on stop of your head frying your brain. You will get a couple of shades darker, guaranteed. The rains can also be quite heavy. Harmattan is the worst season because its freezing cold in the morning and hot as hell in the afternoon. Its dusty and dry and an enemy of supple skin.
The roads of law school are not tarred and are usually dry and dusty. So leave your suede shoes at home. As a matter of fact leave any nice shoes you have at home as they will always look wretched.
A unique thing about law school is the variety of 'wildlife'. I have never seen so many species of insects as I did in NLS.
I found it very difficult to sleep because the staff kept chickens, turkey, Guinea fowls etc and they were so noisy at all hours. Some nights I would go out and throw rocks and water at them. There were so many of us complaining that they eventually took action.
There were also 2 incidents of the guards killing snakes within the hostels. This is another disadvantage of living on the ground floor. NLS is very rural living.
Food- This is a major issue when you first get to Bwari. Take some Pepto-Bismol along as most people's stomach get upset the first couple of weeks. On campus there's 'mami market' which consists of canteens by different women. They serve nigerian dishes in the afternoon and night. There's also a suya guy, 2 guys dt sell sharwarma and chicken+chips, indomie lady, a lady that sells fried foods, 2 women that sell fruits and general provision stores. There's variety but it quickly gets very boring. Its very affordable but any dreams of dessert for a sweet tooth like mine requires a journey into town. Surprisingly a large number of people put on weight when on campus. This is usually because you sit all day in class, have a heavy lunch, have an afternoon nap and then have dinner shortly before bed. You have to learn to exercise if you don't want to gain weight. There's an aerobics class in the mornings and evenings and a large number of us jog. There's a gym, football pitch, basketball and tennis court and a swimming pool in the hotel opposite so there's really no excuse!
Most people grow to enjoy the food and I would recommend Ali's indomie and suya!
Extra-Cirricular Activities- There are several charity organisations on campus. I was the vice president of the Sickle Cell Aid Foundation (SCAF) so I'll obviously encourage you all to join that ;-). I'll do a seperate post on that soon. I also helped out with Bwari Child Foundation which is another that helps children within Bwari. We usually organise events to raise money which is used to carry out the help in the community. It was great fun and my SCAF team became my family. We organised bonfires, parties, valentines auction and a talent show and the support was overwhelming.
There are usually no parties allowed on campus without written permission from student affairs. So we would go this bar opposite school called "La Liga" on thursdays. There's a point and kill bar as well as hotel bars. Weekends were usually spent in Abuja town. If you enjoy drinking, you'll have to learn how to sneak them in as alcohol is not allowed on campus, even when we have events!
There's a compulsary law dinner although we didn't have one in bar 1! In summary there's no social life in NLS but as with everything come with a very open mind.
The best advice I can give any Bar 1 student is that NLS is a lesson in humility. Every initial gra gra you come with will be fraustrated out of you. So just obey the rules, be respectul of the staff and the values of the institution and you'll have an amazing experience. I have had a fabulous time in NLS and the best part is definitely the people.