So what’s NCS really like? Gurpreet, Bryony and William are three of our grads who’ve actually done the programme in different locations. We asked them to describe their NCS experience for each phase of the programme and here, they’ve given us all the scoop on Phase 1 – Adventure. Check out what you can really expect when you go on NCS!
What’s your hometown and when did you take part in NCS?
G: My hometown is Gerrards Cross in South Buckinghamshire, but I took part in NCS in High Wycombe in mid-July to early August 2016.
B: Worcester in the West Midlands. I did NCS in Summer 2016!
W: I’m from London and took part in Summer 2016.
Where did you complete Phase 1 of NCS?
G: We went down to Somerset.
B: PGL Winmarleigh Hall in Lancashire.
W: In Hailsham (I’m pretty sure), at a PGL activity centre.
What did you expect from Phase 1 when you first signed up?
G: Before I started NCS, I thought Phase 1 would be a week where I would meet new friends and take part in some cool activities like water sports, rock climbing and games. I thought I’d face exciting new challenges and experiences.
B: I expected it to be a fun week where I could meet loads of new people and do lots of sporty activities. I wasn’t too excited by the idea of the hike but the other activities ranged from water sports and heights to team building. I knew I had to have an open mind.
W: To be honest I expected it to be a drag, boring and awkward, since I didn’t think I’d know anyone there. Plus, I was sceptical about how I’d get along with people, and whether being from London would make me seem like an outcast.
When you arrived at the coach, what was running through your mind?
G: When I first arrived at the meeting point with my suitcase, I remember looking around at everyone in my team for the first time and thinking how to introduce myself to everyone. It was a little nerve-racking at first but once we all started talking, we really got to know each other.
B: I was actually really nervous as I didn’t really know anybody. All I saw were strange faces of people I didn’t know anything about and was worried they weren’t going to like me.
W: As I arrived at the coach I thought to myself, “this is gonna be a long week”. At first I knew no one, but then I spotted a friend from school and someone who had recently left my school.
What was the coach journey like? Did you get to do any games or ice breakers? If you did, what were they?
G: Just before we all got on the coach, we played some icebreaker games led by our team leaders. We took turns answering some pretty random questions but realised we all had things in common, which was a great conversation starter for the coach ride. The coach journey for us was around 3 hours but it definitely didn’t feel like it! We were all so excited and couldn’t stop talking!
B: It was very long! The coach journey back was 8 hours due to traffic! But people brought their speakers so everyone was singing songs and having a laugh with all the new people they had met.
W: At first the coach journey was a drag. I was really bored and didn’t know anyone around me. However after some time, conversation broke out between me and the guy sitting next to me. We introduced ourselves, talked about school and life just after GCSEs. I’d made my first friend on NCS!
What was the accommodation like for Phase 1? Even if you didn't like it – be honest!
G: We stayed in big 12 man tents, with 6 bunk beds in each one. It may not have been luxurious accommodation but it wasn’t all that bad! We made friends with everyone in our tents so it was always fun after curfew too! Being allocated 1 plug socket per team was probably the hardest thing but worked out if you kept a rota or had a portable charger!
B: Bunk beds! I didn’t mind so much as you only spent time in there to sleep. There was a toilet for each room and I shared with 4 lovely new friends. It obviously wasn’t the best accommodation ever but that didn’t matter as everyone was in the same boat! I got a good night sleep – that’s what counts, right?
W: Well it was manageable. Warm, no spiders, enough sockets for charging phones… I’d been on two army camps in the summers of 2014 and 2015…they were a lot worse!
What were the team leaders like? Did they help you bond as a team?
G: The team leaders were all so great! They were so involved all the time playing games and being silly with us. They always made sure everyone was as happy and involved as they could be. The team leaders were always there for us whenever we needed them!
B: They are up for a laugh and are positive in every situation. The team leaders always made sure everyone was included – they definitely made my experience a great one!
W: The team leaders were great…so understanding and friendly. From day one they did everything to help us bond as a team and threw a spark of competition in. We called ourselves the ‘Ninjas in pyjamas’! NIPs for short!
What did you do on day 1?
G: On our first full day, all of us did different activities within our teams. My team’s first activity was geotrecking where you use riddles and clues to navigate your way around a forest using a map and collect tasks at checkpoints along the way. This was a great way to work as a team and getting to know each other along the way!
B: The first activity was the hike, and it was the first time we got to spend time with our teams. It wasn’t easy but it was such a team bonding experience. The thing I remember most about week 1 was how nice it was to get to know all these people in the same stage of their lives as me and realise how much we have in common – it makes me so happy just thinking about it!
W: We played a lot of group strengthening games, and games to introduce ourselves. I spent most of my time with my two new friends Connor and Joachim. In the evening, we were throwing around a rugby ball when we were approached by three girls that had been spying us. They asked us to play basketball so we did and had a great time. I had the opportunity to show off a bit, being a basketballer myself.
On the rest of the days, were you doing things every minute of every day or were there breaks?
G: On the other days, we were doing different activities during the day like rock climbing and abseiling but we always had free time at lunch and before and after dinner. We would have wave time every evening where all the groups would get together to play games or have mini competitions. This was a great chance to meet people in different groups in your wave.
B: There were so many breaks, but I mostly spent my breaks playing basketball! Every night and spare moment a big group of us played basketball against each other, against the leaders and against the PGL staff! It was so much fun!
W: There were lots of breaks. More than enough, but everything was fun anyway so we’d use breaks to eat snacks, chat to the girls we made friends with, and play games like Frisbee and stuff.
If you or a team member didn't want to take part in an activity, what happened?
G: If someone didn’t want to take part in an activity, they would have the full support and encouragement from the whole group and team leaders. You would never be forced to do something you didn’t want to do.
B: Nobody was forced to take part in anything – there were a lot of people who struggled with anxiety too, but everyone was supportive and nobody was ever left behind! It’s like a big family who’s supportive and understanding!
W: The team leaders would encourage us as much as possible and so would the rest of the group. But if we really didn’t want to do something, we were never forced. Most people took part in all the activities.
A big thanks to Gurpreet, Bryony and William for their contributions. Now you’ve got the lowdown on phase 1, find out what happens on phase 2 – Discovery!