Anastasiya Hudzen, CLAS ’11, can lead you to the best French bakeries in Connecticut.
But her measure of “best” is not how the pastries taste but how well the bakery’s business plan works.
Her study of the bakeries – conduced entirely through interviews in French – earned her credit in a business French class. It also gave her a real knowledge of strategy.
“What I learned is that there is no one way to run a business,” she says.
One bakery, for instance, focused on keeping the goods as French as possible. At the end of the day, everything was discarded and new products baked the next day. No non-French products were sold and the goal of the French-born owner is to keep the croissants as flaky as possible.
But another bakery added any items to the French menu that would sell. If customers requested items, they were added. And the owner also tried out new products. Canadian donuts, Danish pastries and other items were sold alongside the brioche and pain au chocolat.
Hudzen of Manchester, Conn., speaks Belarus, Russian, French, and English and is learning Spanish. She knows firsthand about integrating cultures. She came to the U.S. just six years ago from Belarus. She left that country, she says, to seek a better life and to escape political instability. She came alone but joined a friend who lived in Connecticut.
After she settled in Connecticut, she found a job working as a workflow coordinator at Bozzutos, Inc., and discovered that she also wanted more education. She will receive a BA degree from CLAS in May with a major in anthropology and a minor in French.
One of the cultural differences she encountered, she says, relates to student behavior. In Belarus, they are encouraged to focus on behaving well in a group, while American students are encouraged to be individualistic.
Figuring out what to do and how was a challenge, she says. “Americans know the system.”
“I was interested in a lot of the classes,” she says. “But the ones that made the biggest impact on me were human evolution with Professor (Sally) McBrearty and the peoples and cultures of North America with Professor (Kimberly) Kasper.”
That class led her to what she hopes will be her future: earning a PhD degree focused on Native American culture.
“The class on Native Americans was eye opening. I had no idea how damaged their culture was by the historical process, ” she says. “Our ideas of Native Americans are often limited to stereotypes that are far from being true. They are not one homogeneous group but rather a group of peoples with a very diverse history.”
Hudzen says she will work for a year to save money and then apply to graduate schools in the U.S. or Europe. “I’ve very excited by the idea of travel,” she says.