By: Aanisah Husain

On move-in weekend at the University of Maryland, the sun was shining, and music blasted as hundreds of students swarmed McKeldin Mall during the university’s annual FreeFest, which was held on Aug. 27 as part of Fall Welcome. 

IMG 6769
Students flock to FreeFest on Aug. 27.
Credit: Aanisah Husain

“[FreeFest] is just getting students excited for this year,” said Vivian Flanhgan, a program assistant for the Student and Community Development Programs (SCDP). 

Fall Welcome, which is sponsored by the university’s Department of Resident Life, is held every year before the start of fall classes and gives students an opportunity to explore campus and the surrounding community while connecting with each other. 

Area vendors participate in FreeFest, offering giveaways such as T-shirts, frisbees, cookies, comic books and stickers in hopes of attracting students to local offerings. 

“It’s one of the best freshmen events [the university] offer[s]. Getting all the free stuff, learning about other clubs is really helpful and it’s just a fun time,” said Abraham Fich, a sophomore history major.

Fan favorites at FreeFest were not limited to the giveaways, though. Lines for the tarot card readings and henna artist stretched across McKeldin Mall.

And as incoming freshmen explore the campus and community, returning students have a chance to catch up with friends and classmates after a long summer away and, for many, distance learning during the pandemic.

“Having everyone else back has been nice,” said Josie Jack, a junior journalism major. “I’ve run into a bunch of friends, so it’s been nice to see everyone, even just the mutual friends or classmates that you wouldn’t hang out with.”

SCDP staff always have high hopes and expectations for FreeFest. Hannah Klein, a program assistant with the department, said this year’s event had more enthusiastic energy than last year’s event did. 

“It’s so exciting to see all the students [who] were just dancing around the DJ just for fun. I think the energy is a lot more high energy than it was last year.”

Spirits and expectations were high after this year’s event. Students were encouraged to return to a bustling campus with all sorts of creative and social outlets. Some said, in fact, that they were already looking  forward to next year’s FreeFest.