“Hopefully I’ll be drinking my own homemade wine in a few years”

“Hopefully I’ll be drinking my own homemade wine in a few years”

A room of one’s own

10-10-2022 · Interview

Baudouin de Meulemeester (19) from Belgium, a second-year European Law School bachelor’s student, pays 400 euros per month for a 15 m2 room in Wyckerpoort, a residential neighbourhood.

The first thing you notice in Baudouin de Meulemeester’s room is the bed frame made of wood pallets. “Instagrammable, but also easy and cheap.” He took them from his grandparents’ farm near Liège, Belgium. “I go there pretty often. I like to help out on the farm. I got my tractor driving licence two years ago to be able to take over various tasks from my grandma and grandpa.”

Last summer, he started a new project at the farm: making homemade wine. He took winemaking courses together with his grandfather, mother and uncle. Their next step will be to plant the vines. The goal is to produce their own sparkling wine a few years from now. “It’ll be like champagne, as the climate here is similar to the Champagne region about thirty years ago.” They’ll be making the wine for themselves in the first place. “I’m already looking forward to drinking our homemade wine at Christmas dinner.”

Fuel costs

It’s easier for him to visit the farm now that he has access to a car—a second-hand car his mother bought a few months ago. “I get to use it if I pay for fuel myself. I may have to share it with my little brother next year, if he passes his driving test.” But for now, he has the car to himself. He uses it every weekend to visit his parents and girlfriend, who live near Brussels. “It’s two hours by train, but it takes half that time to drive.”

Isn’t it a lot more expensive, though? Not at all, says de Meulemeester. There is free parking a ten-minute walk from where he lives in Maastricht. “That’s one of the advantages of not living in the city centre.” And he cuts the cost of fuel by sharing his car with fellow UM students travelling to and from Brussels. “I use a Facebook group to tell people what time I’ll leave. People who want a lift pay six euros each.” It’s a successful initiative; his car is often full. “I even profit from it sometimes, as I break even at three passengers. Plus, I get to know all kinds of people, and I even made some new friends.”

Building a hospital

He only lives in his room in Maastricht during the week. He has two housemates, including one of his best friends. “We went to the same secondary school and our mothers are friends. He already lived in the house. I moved in when a room became available last spring.” It was a bit of a gamble, says de Meulemeester, as moving in with a good friend doesn’t always work out. “You get to know each other in a new way. But it’s going well; it turns out we have the same routine. We cook together almost every evening.” He laughs. “Sometimes it’s like we’re a married couple.”

He also likes the room itself. “It’s a good study environment. This is a quiet residential area with a lot of families.” The wall is filled with photos, most of which were taken in the gap year he took before coming to Maastricht. He went abroad for three months three times. First, he went to Spain to learn Spanish; then, he went to Malta to improve his English (“There were a lot of covid restrictions in England at the time”); and finally, he travelled to southern Africa, where he helped build a hospital in Zambia. “The pictures liven up the room and bring back memories. I feel at home here.”

Opportunities

So why does he go back to Belgium every weekend? “It’s important to me to maintain my social life there.” His weekends are full of activities: on Sundays he is a leader at the local Scout club, and as the chairman of Young Talks he organises lectures in Brussels and records podcasts for young people. “On all kinds of topics, from philosophy to the energy crisis or the Belgian banking system. It’s great fun, and I meet so many interesting people.”

Making wine, organising lectures, being a Scout leader—does he even have any time left to study? “Certainly. I just like to do lots of different things. I’m also taking an online course on cybercrime at a Finnish university through YUFE. It’s a lot of work, but because I enjoy it, it doesn’t feel like work. Life is full of opportunities, and I want to seize as many as I can.”

In the weekly series 'A room of one's own' Observant interviews students about their rooms, in their rooms. Are you a student and interested to be in this series? Send a mail to [email protected]

Photo: Ellen Oosterhof

Categories: news_top, People
Tags: aroomofonesown,a room of one's own,wine,belgium,car,student,students

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