Sophie DeChazal just finished three years of university life. However, she returns home with a debt of nearly £10,000 and no degree in hand. As her once close-knit family adjusts to the news and tries to understand what happens, Sophie attempts to justify her behaviour. The story takes us through those three years of self-discovery and self-mutilation.
How did a responsible straight-A student with great hopes for the future turn into a savage party animal, devoid of principles or morals?


7. That First Day

I settled myself down in my veranda, laptop in hand and sunglasses on. Although it was July in Mauritius, the sun had insisted on outstaying its welcome and brightened up our 15-degree winter day.  The view in front of me incited peace and a lingering atmosphere of serenity. All the hues of green embellished by colourful patches of yellow, pink, red, orange and purple spread out all around the garden, the size of a small football pitch.  My gazed lazily followed the landscape until it came to rest on my favourite feature right in the middle of it: the infinity pond. The water flows smoothly off the edges of the pond and the current remains constant, unnerved by any changes in the weather. Right next to it,  a young screwpine tree casts its shadow above, as if protecting it. The sight before eyes made me envious because it portrayed a certain tranquility I would never be able to attain and it was also the symbol of concentration and focus I had never been able to reach. Dejected, I sighed and opened up my laptop to log into my facebook account. As I had promised my mum, I would subject my profile on this addictive social networking site to a vigorous spring-cleaning. All that was not of necessity and could be disposed of, would be and all that could be concealed away from prying eyes, would also be.  Having been highly active on facebook, and by that I mean, having always had my facebook page open and having always been checking for that new notification at every minute, this was not going to be an easy task. My life had been an open story to most people, the less I knew of them in the real world, the more they knew of me through the virtual one. Being a virtual social animal, I knew exactly how to categorise my friends to that they would see just what I wanted them to see...family members were completely limited and probably under the illusion that my profile was a dormant one. Mere acquaintances would go out of their way to let me know that I was invading their newsfeed. Thus, sorting through my friends, whose number neared the four digits, would be long and arduous work, but it would be done. 

As I scrolled down, name after name, all brought back a flood of memories and my facial expression followed a pattern of smiles and cringes. To the casual passerby, my alternate face-palming, heading-shaking and random chortle would have certainly provided entertainment. Then, my cursor reached the 'D's and instinctively halted on Demi.

It was 7am and my first real day on my own. Dad had gone back home last night and now, I would have to enter the world of uni and fend for myself. The thought itself was overwhelming and, standing at the  corner of the cafeteria till, tray piled with a single plate of bland lasagna and a mug of hot chocolate, I felt very much awkward and out of place. It seemed as if I had unwittingly become part of a stereotypical Hollywood highschool movie. I was the new kid in school and whatever table I was fated to choose would define the person I would be for the rest of the year. There was the obvious jocks' table, cramped up with the big, muscly guys talking sports and discreetly checking each other's biceps out, silently competing to be the ultimate alpha male. Right next to it was the cheerleaders' table where the pretty girls, with perfect hair and make up and wearing the latest trends were sat down, sharing relationship drama and shopping tips whilst casually eyeing the jocks. Then, we had the geeks' table, which seemed to consist of the entirety of International Hall's, or 'IH' as the pamphlets had referred to it.,  asian population eagerly comparing SAT results or A'Levels, swapping course outlines and holding debates on which university was the best. There was the hipsters' table where everyone was too busy doing something artsy such as notebook-scribbling, ukelele-strumming, ipod-listening or space-staring to actually talk to one another. Holding those prejudicial thoughts on my fellow hallmates had the same effect as picturing everyone naked whilst giving a speech: instead of making you relax, it just made you feel even more uncomfortable. I was about to give up and start a table for the socially inadequate when, as in those american teen movies, someone came by my side and said: "Intimidating, isn't it? Hi, I'm Demi, want to share a table?". The confident-looking girl had come to save me from disaster. 

She was English but she had lived in France all her life. The first fact about her made my heart sore as I realised we shared a point in common, we were both fluent in english and french, I sighed in relief realising that there would be no communication barrier. At every sentence she uttered, my spirits lifted even more, we had so much more in common it was starting to seem too good to be true. Not only were we both bilingual, but we were on the same floor, the same course and the same university. The more she revealed about herself, the more I needed to pinch myself because she was, to me, BFF material. She was friendly, confident, considerate, quirky, funny and humble. We did become best friends and we remained so for the next three years to come.  Demi was my social saviour in more ways than one. As I revealed to her that I was not a great for socialising when it came to making the first step, she immediately took over.  I was bemused and in awe to see her introduce herself to anyone she would bump into, babble out the same social history and express a sincere enthusiasm to get to know them. By the end of that first breakfast, I knew her 'Hi, I'm Demi' speech by heart and could repeat it with the same intonations she would put to it. It was thanks to her that we had formed our own table with an assortment of people from all the other tables. We were to be the eclectic table and that suited me fine. 

As the cafeteria buzzed with young adults sharing first names and life stories, I felt contented and relieved. I had made friends, it was a trivial matter and an expected step in this new journey but the fact that I had managed to cross the threshold, pass that first hurdle meant the world to me. Already, I had met a dozen of people on my course, which seemed to be the most common choice at IH, and plans to walk to the Waterloo campus tomorrow morning for the introductory course had already been made. Furthermore, evening plans to get to know one another better were also forming at the breakfast table, with those having a greater knowledge of London suggesting those 'great cheap studenty' places we all go to. Back home, outings with friends had always been precluded by a very thorough cross-examination where mum and dad would play both the part of the counsel and of the judge whilst we would be shoved into the witness box and turned into the hostile witness. Thus, I had not been a great party-goer, I had grown accustomed to the thrill of the  rare night out and discipline indulgence. Mauritius was a small island, even if we had been allowed more outings, the result would have been the same. When you know you're eventually going to run into someone who knows your parents during a night out, you can't allow yourself as much fun as you would love to. There was a certain level of propriety that one still had to maintain to prevent gossip from turning into vicious rumours.  Tonight, after making my room a better portrayal of me, I would be able to head out with this new-formed group of friends and enjoy a night out without the apprehension of seeking my parents'  permission and without the need to look over my shoulder in case someone I knew was around. 




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