Alicea Fitzpatrick, a freshman fire protection engineering major, currently lives in Hagerstown Hall, but to explore potential living spaces for next year, she and three of her floormates visited the Leonardtown Community Wednesday evening.

"We've never been here before, and it's, like, a lot different than living directly on campus," Fitzpatrick said. "We just wanted to see a different perspective and see if it's something we'd be interested in."

Fitzpatrick and her floormates joined about 130 students at the Department of Resident Life's Explore Leonardtown Livin' event, designed to promote the university housing to returning students, after a year in which more than 100 first-year students were housed in apartment-style community.

Living in the community can be difficult for freshmen, said current Leonardtown resident Adler Pruitt, a sophomore economics and government and politics major.

"The one difficulty of living in Leonardtown is the social gap and sort of being isolated because you don't have those manufactured experiences you might have in the same hall, being across from each other," he said. "You just don't have that in Leonardtown, so I'm glad to see that the Department of Resident Life is trying to do things to help everybody out."

The first-year students were placed in the Leonardtown housing after room selection last year, when a lot of students may not have known about the community, said Scott Young, associate director of administrative and business services.

To promote the event, Resident Life offered free food and a raffle pool for two free bikes, supplied by the Department of Transportation Services, a free semester meal plan and the ultimate prize of a free semester of housing. Winners will be announced March 30.

Officials hoped to attract 200 students to the event. Despite falling short of that number, Young said, the department will truly consider the event a success if the number of students requesting to live in Leonardtown rises for next academic year.

"Ultimately, we're hoping that we get at least 50 more students who would select spaces in Leonardtown," Young said. "We're going to be able to measure that."

One draw for the Leonardtown Community is the mixed-gender, gender-inclusive housing it offers, said freshman environmental science and policy major Logan Kline.

"We're looking for a kind of different experience than living on campus," she said. "I'm not a huge fan of the big, blocky dorm halls, so I'm like looking into the apartments and different things like that."

Despite Leonardtown's distance from the campus, Justin Lucas, Pruitt's roommate, who is enrolled in letters and sciences, said he has loved living in the community so far.

"We've got two rooms, two bathrooms; we use the common area — we've got a couple of TVs in there. I love it," the sophomore said. "Location-wise, the walk can be a little bit rough some days, but especially on nice days like this, I don't mind it at all."