Swansea University student realises her ambitions against tough odds


Swansea University graduate Anna White proved her teachers wrong and today (Monday 25 January) will be proudly collecting her well earnt PhD in German Studies at the winter degree and congregation ceremony at the Brangwyn Hall.

Anna, aged 31 from Splott, Cardiff, came from a non-academic family background but she was always determined to take her studies to the limit and battled adversities in the shape of late diagnosed dyslexia and dyspraxia throughout her school and university career.

Haunted by predictions from teachers that she would not realise her ambitions and negative comments about her abilities and potential, she set out to prove the doubters wrong and follow her intellectual interests in culture, politics and cinema.

After taking a BA and MA in War and Society, she funded herself through a PhD which investigated portrayals of ‘good Germans’ in post-millennial films, set during the Holocaust of World War 2, focussing in particular on Hollywood (Spielberg’s Schindler’s List), Tom Cruise in Valkyrie and the German film industry (Aimee and Jaguar).

Anna enrolled on her PhD course in 2009 and completed it some six years later, a truly epic accomplishment. It was however not until the summer of 2013 that Anna was properly diagnosed with dyslexia and dyspraxia, having previously been told to concentrate on improving her writing skills.

Before being diagnosed, Anna’s performance at BA was distinctly modest, that is as far as is reflected by the grades awarded. Her MA was no different and teaching staff were not of the view that she was PhD material. Nevertheless Anna persevered.

After her PhD was referred in late 2013 and combined with her late diagnosis, she began to work with specialist support from the University and her supervisors (Prof Julian Preece, Languages,Translation and Communications and Dr Steve McVeigh, Political and Cultural Studies). Anna’s final thesis was commended by her examiners for the clarity of its expression and originally of its insights.   

Speaking about her epic journey Anna said: “I always knew that I wanted to push forward with my studies as far as I could, and I still would not consider the PhD to be the end. It has been a struggle to overcome my problems as I knew in my mind what I wanted to say but it wasn’t always easy to convert those ideas into words. I wanted to prove my doubters wrong and I was determined to achieve my aims. Now that proper recognition has been given to my issues, and with the excellent help and support I received, I have been able learn to overcome my difficulties and I am thrilled that I have finally completed my PhD and that the examiners were pleased with my thesis.  

“My interest in War and Society combined with my love of film gave me the idea for my PhD. My subject and journey has been complex. But, it’s been a chance to celebrate life’s nuances and has been a joy to unravel."