Route J-1


Fudge Versus History

Posted on Friday, August 29th, 2014 at 3:53 pm.

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View of Lake Huron and Mackinac Island from Fort Mackinac, built during the American Revolutionary War by the British.

In this post, my colleague, Nadine Zaatar, shares her experience during a recent visit to Mackinac Island.

If you had to choose between working at a fudge restaurant or at a historical landmark, which would you choose?  For the several hundred participants placed in Mackinac Island, this is the exact conundrum they faced when deciding on the direction of their Summer Work Travel (SWT) program.  I guess the main question one has to ask their self is, “Do I have the self-discipline to avoid eating the tasty samples all day?”

Downtown Mackinac Island

Downtown Mackinac Island

J-1 SWT participant Danilo Babic (Serbia) makes fudge in front of visitors dubbed “fudgies” by the Mackinac locals.
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J-1 SWT participant Danilo Babic (Serbia) makes fudge in front of visitors dubbed “fudgies” by the Mackinac locals. J-1 SWT participants Maria Alekhina (Russia), Ramona Nikolic (Bosnia-Herzegovina), and Kristiva Sacheva (Bulgaria) work at one of the many fudge shops that line the Mackinac Island streets.

If you are anything like me, then you probably had no idea that Mackinac Island is known for its fudge.  The downtown streets are lined with candy shops, many of which have been around for generations.  Stores such as Joann’s Fudge, May’s Candy Shop, Murdock’s Fudge, and Sanders Candy have served as host placements for our J-1 SWT participants, teaching the students not only about fudge but also about local traditions and history.  They even gave me a couple tips on how to produce the perfect fudge, but I have been sworn to secrecy! (Hint: lots of sugar)

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Colonial re-enactments allow participants the opportunity to learn more about their home for the summer.

While some participants were hosted by the candy shops, others had the opportunity to work at some truly historic landmarks.  Some of the J-1 SWT participants were hosted by The Grand Hotel, which you may remember as the backdrop for the 1980 film, Somewhere in Time, starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour. Others were hosted by Mission Point, which has a history dating back to 1820.  Working at these places gives students an opportunity to learn about the history of the island while interacting with both local residents and visitors from all over the country.

J-1 SWT participant Marko Domuz (Bosnia and Herzegovina) preps for his workday at the historic Mission Point.

J-1 SWT participant Marko Domuz (Bosnia and Herzegovina) preps for his workday at the historic Mission Point.

In addition to getting out of their comfort zones, interacting with local Americans, and improving their English; these international visitors experienced a summer filled with fascinating and momentous tidbits about fudge and the history of Mackinac Island that will be remembered forever.  Who knows, maybe these SWT participants will bring their newfound love of fudge back to their home countries and open up shops of their own!

J-1 SWT participant Gabriela Ciurdas (Romania) beamed with pride as she shared how this program has brought her out of her shell and changed her life.

J-1 SWT participant Gabriela Ciurdas (Romania) beamed with pride as she shared how this program has brought her out of her shell and changed her life.

Categories: Employers, J-1 Visa, Participants, Program Spotlight

About G. Kevin Saba

Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchange


G. Kevin Saba serves as Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchange at the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). In this capacity, he oversees the Exchange Visitor Program, which brings around 300,000 foreign citizens to the United States annually to teach, study, and build skills. He is the Director for the Policy and Program Support Division in ECA’s Office of Private Sector Exchange.

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