Students & Alumni. Philosophy.
Claire White graduated from our BA (Hons) Philosophy in 2022, and now runs her own sound therapy business as well as working as Clinical Administrator at a rehabilitation centre for substance abuse.
Who are you, and what have you been doing since graduating from ARU?
I’m Claire, a philosophy graduate of 2022. I'm a mum of one son who is nearly seven (he was two when I began my philosophy degree). After graduating from ARU I worked in the charity sector for an organisation that offers affordable counselling, The Counselling Foundation, as a Clinical Administrator. For the past five years, I have been slowly building a business as a sound therapist working with instruments such as Tibetan bowls, gongs, crystal bowls, chimes and the voice for people’s health and well-being. I’m now newly employed as a Clinical Administrator at Abbington House, a rehabilitation centre for people who are in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. I will be providing sound therapy at the clinic once we open our doors for clients.
Did you always know that you would go to university and if not, what changed your mind?
I always had an ambition to attend University but it felt like a far away dream for several reasons. I never gave up on it though. When I had my son at 29, he was born prematurely and had some health problems. Once he was much better, I was 31 and deciding what to do with my life. I had a light bulb moment that now was the time to bring my dream into reality. I chose to study philosophy because I felt that, as I had waited this long, I should choose the subject I would find the most fascinating and challenging. The experience with my son is what finally made me take the decision to fulfil this long-held dream. I believe it was part of the post-traumatic growth of him being born early and then being unwell, so I really think he is my inspiration and has helped me to live in the moment more deeply.
Is there one thing that inspired you to do what you do now?
Music in its various forms has inspired me to work with sound therapy, and the beautiful way that it touches emotion and the heart more deeply than words. I am particularly interested in how therapeutic processes like sound and art therapy can facilitate a change of heart and help people to grow. I am inspired by teachers like the late Thich Nhat Hanh, who taught “no mud, no lotus” - meaning that without the suffering of life, you cannot find happiness. Rather than wishing for a life free from suffering, he taught that we can make a radical call for peace, bear our suffering and continue to help and support those around us who are suffering too. He imbued me with the knowledge that peace is active. Spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle encouraged me to find “the place below thought,” which I have found sound therapy helps me and my clients to access very well, and in this place we can find presence and stillness.
What’s the most valuable thing you took away from your education?
My university education and its impact upon my life are still unfolding now. A lot of opportunities are available at uni that are hard to imagine before attending. I felt inspired whilst studying, and really savoured having access to an amazing library, lectures and being able to explore Cambridge.
The Anglia Ruskin Enterprise Academy run an annual competition called The Big Pitch, where people with business ideas can pitch for funds. I was a finalist in 2019 and had the opportunity to practice public speaking, create a business plan, a financial forecast and attend a business bootcamp.
For me the most valuable thing I found at Uni was self-belief and being able to see in reality what I was capable of, instead of dreaming about it. There were lots of times along the way that it felt extremely difficult and it is natural to doubt yourself, but there is magic in seeing things through and doing your best.
Which aspects of the course most helped your career development, and why?
I would say that my problem solving, critical thinking and judgement skills have developed very well by reading about different philosophical viewpoints and comparing them. Through building a philosophical argument and concluding with a viewpoint, I have learned to have more confidence in my thought process and how to objectively draw conclusions from evidence in front of me. Studying ethics has put me in a position to look at the workplace with new ideas in terms of studying the work culture, and how people function together despite different viewpoints. I am drawn towards seeing how people can work better together in a team, and synthesise points of view to create a better environment. I think employers need people who can solve complex and multi-layered problems, which philosophy students learn to do very well!
In terms of wider support too, ARU is passionate about supporting students in their wellbeing, offering art therapy and counselling, which I engaged in because juggling work, studying and being a mum was not easy. But with the right support, anything is possible.
What piece of advice would you give to your younger self?
I would say to my younger self to take the leap of faith and do what your heart tells you to do, because the way opens up only after the jump. I would tell my younger self, you are capable of doing hard things, and you will have fun along the way. Don’t let self doubt win, because it will always be there, but it only becomes quieter when you choose to push through and do that which you are most scared of. Kind people will appear along the path to support you in your dreams, and then one day you will become the person who can encourage others through your own struggles. Don’t beat yourself up if you fall short of your ideals because you can reinvent yourself in the next moment and try again.
What was your favourite thing about studying in Cambridge?
My favourite thing about studying in Cambridge was taking part in a local project within the community. Whilst being a member of the Sustainability Society I was part of a team who planted a small onsite orchard at a local school along with some pupils. We achieved grant funding from sustainability charity, Change Agents, to complete the project. The knowledge of future generations benefitting from the orchard makes me happy. Plus the fact that the pupils learnt valuable skills for life in their school community.
What projects are you currently working on, both at work and outside it?
I am developing a sound therapy programme for people in recovery from addictions that, in time, I can deliver at my new place of work. I am connected with The Sadie Centre, where I hold my sound meditation sessions. They do a lot of great work in the community including being home to Growing People, who offer social and therapeutic horticulture for well-being and positive mental health. I was part of a small team who this year opened a pre-loved and vintage clothes shop at The Sadie Centre to raise funds for charitable work. We receive donations from the public for re-sale, which is aligned with my beliefs in living sustainably and avoiding fast fashion. I am working on combining art therapy with sound therapy along with a friend and colleague.