If there was one thing that was common knowledge about Monde School for Girls, it's that everyone wants to go. From travelling the world to living the life as a boarding school student, most girls can only dream of going. It is said to be the most famous and prestigious boarding school in the world. Located in Cumbria in the north of England, it is situated before a lake and is surrounded by mountains.
Every year, a girl from each country is selected to become a student at Monde School for Girls and complete her final two years of education there. A school is chosen at random in each country by the boarding school and the girls who attend the chosen school get to audition.
However, Monde School for Girls is not just any regular boarding school, only girls with special talents can apply. In addition to Monde School for Girls being a multicultural school, it also teaches all types of talents from dancing to music to sport. At the end of the two years, competitions will be held for the chance to win a scholarship to pursue a career in the given talent.
This year, my school had been selected out of all of the girl schools in England to give the students a chance to showcase their talent and be given a once in a lifetime chance.
Having been urged by my mother to audition, I decided it was worth a shot. I had been playing the piano from the moment I learned to read and have never stopped since. I loved everything about it. From the sweet melodies to the breathtaking pieces performed by pianists, I adored it all. I even dreamed of writing my own song one day.
With butterflies in my stomach, I entered the local music hall in which the auditions were being held. Writing my name down on the list of people who were to audition today along with my talent, I quickly scanned through the names. Most I recognised and I knew quite a few would have an amazing shot at getting in. Sighing, I already felt dejected. Sitting down in the waiting room surrounded by all too eager girls, I drowned in my thoughts.
I had a problem with self esteem ever since a young age. I had tried to improve it many times before but nothing worked. I even tried therapy but I only lasted two sessions before I quit. Mum said that if I got into the boarding school it would boost my confidence, I hope she's right.
"Eleanor Hampton?" I heard my name being called and my eyes snapped up to look at a woman in her mid thirties smiling at me. "It's your turn."
Nodding, I rose to my feet and wiped my sweaty palms on my jeans. The nerves only grew stronger when I stepped up onto a near empty stage. Three judges sat before me and I repressed a shudder. They had to decide who was worthy enough of being offered a spot at the school.
"Whenever you're ready Ms. Hampton." The judges smiled warmly at me and motioned towards the middle of the stage. I looked at the piano, it was old and the wood was wearing away in some parts but the keys looked so inviting. No turning back now. I couldn't help myself when I sat down, running my fingers over the keys and soaked in the melody they made underneath my fingertips.
Silence filled the room and I could feel their eyes on me, waiting ever so patiently. Taking a deep breath, I stared at the piano and my fingers hovered over the keys.
Why am I doing this? I thought to myself as I paused. I began to doubt myself, surely I wasn't as talented as some of the other students in my school. They would never pick me out of all of them. This was pointless.
But there was a part of me that believed I had a chance of being accepted so I started playing. Slowly at first, pouring my soul into each note that filled the air as my hands glided over the keys effortlessly, like they've been doing for years.
Building up the melody, the song told a story that words could never convey. Emotion flowed from my fingertips which the piano turned into a harmony that I hoped the judges would never forget. All my doubts washed away as my entire body flowed with the music in synchronisation, everything in that brief moment forgotten.
When the song reached the climax, I vaguely remember hearing a gasp but I was so lost within the music that I didn't register it fully. Slowing down the pace, I brought the song to a close along with my audition.
Pressing the last few keys, I turned to face the judges once more. The nerves that I felt before came rushing back and I had to hold my hands to stop them from shaking.
"Thank you Ms. Hampton, the exit is on your left."
Standing up, I left the stage without a word. As the door swung shut behind me, I was sure that I would never hear from them again.
The minute I got home, I was bombarded with questions from my overly excited mum. "How did the audition go? What song did you choose? Did they like it? Did they like you? Were you nervous? How was it?"
"Woah, slow down." I laughed and made my way into the living room and sat down. Mum followed suit. "I think the audition went fine." I lied but I didn't want her to be disappointed. "I chose to play Liszt's Liebestraum."
She nodded enthusiastically but motioned for me to continue. "I hope they liked it and I hope they like me. Yes I was nervous and I think I did okay."
"Oh I'm so proud of you." Mum gushed and patted my shoulder. "Even if you don't get in, I'm still incredibly proud."
I could tell she meant it but there was still a part of me that wasn't sure. "Thanks."
Three months passed and by that point I was sure I didn't get in. Each person who auditioned would get a letter saying whether they were accepted or not. Maybe mine was lost? I started thinking of multiple scenarios of how my letter could be lost in the mail, that was until the post came.
"Darling look! It finally arrived!" Mum shouted from the hallway before rushing in and shoving a rather heavy envelope in my hands.
The envelope was plain white and had my name and address on the front. On the back was the logo stamped in black ink.
I had never seen the school crest before. It had a globe with two swans at the top either side of it, facing away from each other. Towards the bottom was Monde School for Girls established 1950 written in neat calligraphy. It looked like it belonged in an art gallery rather than a school logo.
"Hurry and open it." Mum grew impatient with every second I spent staring at the logo.
I smiled a little and nodded before opening the envelope. My hands were shaking slightly, not because I was nervous but because I knew a few students who auditioned and there was no way they chose me over them.
Taking the letter out, I started to read out loud.
"Dear Eleanor Hampton,
I am writing to you in connection with your audition for a place here at Monde School for Girls. I am pleased to inform you that your audition was successful and we are granting you a full scholarship which will cover the two years you will spend here should you accept.
Please see the letter attached for more details regarding application, uniform, rules and arrangements.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us via the school website.
We hope to hear from you soon.
Headmistress Alma Phelps."
I hadn't noticed Mum had started crying until she spoke. "I knew you would do well." She engulfed me in the biggest hug I had ever received in my life. "I knew you would get accepted."
I was too shocked to speak. Surely I read that wrong or there was some mistake. No way was I chosen. Me? Out of everyone?
"What?" Was all I managed to say as I was at a loss for words. Mum laughed and took the letters out of my hands as I was about to drop them.
They chose me?
"We have to get these forms filled out right away!" She exclaimed, rushing to find a pen. "You also need to start thinking about what you're going to pack."
I wanted to laugh, cry and scream at the same time. I was selected out of everyone.
I did it.
I was now a student at Monde School for Girls.
The school uniform arrived two days before I was due to leave. It consisted of a collared white button down shirt, the option of either a dress or a skirt with a matching black, blue and silver design, a navy jumper and black jacket with the school crest and a pair of smart black shoes.
Trying everything on was a lot more fun than I thought it would be. Packing however, was not fun. Not in the slightest. With my mum hovering around me every five minutes to make sure I was doing it right, it was stressful to say the least but I still managed to squeeze everything into three suitcases, four if you included the case for my keyboard.
The next thing I knew, it was 8am on the morning I was due to leave for Monde School for Girls. I was never a morning person and that made it extremely difficult to actually get up and make my way to the bathroom but somehow I managed.
Looking in the mirror, I was horrified by my reflection. My untamed brown hair that usually hit my collarbones was in such a mess that it was in tangles at my shoulders. Sleep crust coated my eyes and a small line of dried drool ran down my chin. It took me roughly twenty minutes to look somewhat acceptable. My light brown eyes turned a slight yellowish colour in the light of the rising sun which also freaked me out a little.
"Hurry up or you'll be late!" I heard my mum yell from downstairs as I threw on the most comfortable clothes I had. Seeing as I would be stuck in a car for six hours, comfort was my top priority.
"I'm ready!" I called out and started dragging my luggage out of my room.
"Let me help you with those." Mum said and together we pulled the four suitcases down the stairs. "You must call me every week!" She exclaimed as I took my phone off charge and stuffed the charger in my bag.
"I will." I replied as I laced up my shoes. I could see her nod out of the corner of my eye.
"Good. Now are you sure you have everything?" She asked for the hundredth time once all the suitcases were lined up beside the door.
"Yes, I have everything. Stop worrying about me." I smiled to reassure her before moving to the window so I could watch for the car that was to take me from my hometown all the way to Monde School for Girls on the opposite side of the country. I lived in a small town in South East England, only a half hours drive away from London. It was overcrowded and busy as it was so near the city but it was home to me.
"I can't help but worry. I'm a mother, I have to." She joked as she got a notification on her phone. Checking it, Mum smiled. "Charles says good luck today."
Charles Hampton, my energetic older brother who currently lived and worked in Japan had been overjoyed ever since we told him the news and demanded that I update him on everything that happens. I had quite a strong relationship with my brother. He was always very encouraging and had a lust for adventure. Ever since I was young I had looked up to him.
"The car's here." Mum's voice suddenly snapped me out of my thoughts and I looked out of the window. Sure enough, the fanciest black car I had ever seen pulled into our driveway. Damn that car looks expensive.
Rushing to the door, Mum flung it open before the poor guy had a chance to knock.
"Ms Hampton?" He asked, looking at the both of us. "I'm a representative of Monde School for Girls." He showed us his card with the school logo I liked ever so much. "I'm to take you to the school now. Would you like some help with your luggage?"
While Mum and the representative carried my luggage to the car, I looked around my home for the last time. I knew I would see it again but I would miss it while I was away. Especially my piano.
I ran my fingers over the keys. This piano was a gift for my tenth birthday and I loved it as much now as I did the first day I got it. Dropping my bag, I sat down and started to play a quick little piece, enjoying the melody that came out of it. Well I was until Mum called for me. "Sweetheart? Time to go."
Picking up my bag from where I left it, I made my way to the front door where she was waiting for me. Mum looked to be on the verge of tears again.
"Go have an adventure Eleanor. See things you never have before and don't forget to try everything. Throw yourself into it because you might not get another chance like this again. Make lots of friends from all around the world and have fun." She put her hands on my shoulders and seeing her cry always brought tears to my eyes. "I want you to promise me something."
"What is it?" I whispered as a tear slipped from my eye. It never fully sunk in how much I would miss her until now.
"Promise me that you won't be so hard on yourself all the time and I want you to take pride in the things you do. Don't compare yourself to others, just be you and live life with no regrets. Promise me Eleanor."
"I promise." If this was the last thing Mum wanted from me before I leave for a year, I could at least try.
"Now go, the driver is waiting for you." She hugged me one last time and both of us were reluctant to let go. Eventually we had to and with one last emotional exchange, I trudged down to the fancy car and opened the door in the back.
"Bye Mum." I called out and I got a wave in return. Realising that she would be all by herself until I returned, I felt guilty as I saw her alone on the doorstep.
But her words were on loop in my mind. No regrets.
Taking a deep breath, I got into the car. The leather seats in the back had to be the most comfortable seats I had ever sat on in my life. I sank right into them.
Starting the car, the driver then pulled out of our driveway. Rolling down the window, I waved to my mother until she was just a speck in the distance.
The journey was going to take the best part of six hours. If I was going to be stuck in a car for that amount of time, I needed my music. Putting my headphones in and hitting shuffle, I leaned back in the seat and looked out of the window and watched as the motorway flew underneath the tires.
How in the world was I chosen to attend the Monde School for Girls? I smiled a little at the thought, Mum wasn't wrong. Being accepted did give me a little boost of confidence, something I haven't felt in quite a while.
Also the music playing improved my mood considerably. It washed away the sadness of leaving my home and Mum.
Aside from the piano, I also really enjoyed singing. Something about it was comforting to me. Transferring my emotions into lyrics like I did with the piano always gave me a little boost.
"Ms. Hampton?" The driver called politely to get my attention. "There is a black box on the seat beside you. Inside it is your school bag for the year along with everything you need to know."
Looking to my left, there was indeed a large black box. Inside was the most beautiful leather satchel I had ever seen.
Opening the bag, I found a sheet containing the school rules, copies, stationery, along with a room number and key. The number was 147.
I began to wonder what my roommate would be like and which country she would be from. Maybe another English speaking country? Or would there be a language barrier between us? That would make things extremely awkward. There was still so much I didn't know about the boarding school but for now I knew enough. I grinned to myself thinking about everything I would do in the next two years. It's going to be one hell of a ride, I thought.
I don't remember falling asleep but I jolted awake when the car suddenly hit a speed bump. Looking out of the window opposite me, I could see Monde School for Girls there in all its glory. I had never seen a building quite like it.
It was massive, in both height and length. It looked like a former palace or a giant museum that had been transformed into a school. It looked marvellous.
Surrounded by the most beautiful lake and mountains I had ever seen in my life, the school looked like a work of art. Gazing at the entrance, the huge oak doors were pulled back, inviting all newcomers inside. Above the doors was a stone carving of the beautiful school crest.
I could see other students from different countries arriving too and I grinned from ear to ear. Excitement built up inside of me as I grabbed my bag and thanked the driver.
Live life with no regrets. Taking a deep breath, I resolved myself to abide by that promise.
And so I stepped out of the car, and my new life began.