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Rīga Stradiņš University (RSU) "International Student of the Year 2018" is Johannes Georg Steibl, 10th semester student in the study programme Medicine with excellent grades who is an active member of the RSU International Student Association. He was one of the initiators of and has contributed to the implementation of electronic study system and medical learning platform AMBOSS. Johannes Steibl is also former vice-president of Deutsche Studenten im Ausland (German Students Abroad).


Johannes Georg Steibl. Photo from personal archive.

Tell us a bit about yourself – where you are from, what your interests are, what are you passionate about?

I grew up in a small town called Bruchsal in the southwest of Germany, about 30 km from the French border. Five years ago I moved to Riga, to start my studies in medicine and follow up on my wish to become a doctor.  I love to cook for friends and get creative, spending time with my girlfriend, organise events with German Students Abroad and International Students’ Association (ISA), reading a good book or just enjoying a movie on Movie Monday at Forum Cinemas.

What are the three most important things you have achieved so far?

Good question and very dependent on the definition of achievement. All of them were very influenced by the support of the people around me. Academically, I would put completing the open-ended question histology exam, on par with my recent nomination as International Student of the Year.  Socially, regarding RSU, I think activating cooperation between ISA and the RSU Student Union during my time as vice-president of ISA was a rather big achievement.  And overall I think performing my first CPR on a 50-year-old lady with a pulmonary embolism and saving her life was definitely one of the best feelings ever.

What do you think of your studies at Rīga Stradiņš University?

Like at any other institute of higher education, there are strengths and weaknesses. The longer I stay at RSU, though, the more I think that studies here prepared me well for life, and I do not refer only to the academic side of things. The whole process of going to another country, adapting to living by myself, studying in an international group in a language which is not my mother tongue, having to communicate with people who not only speak a different language but also have a sometimes surprisingly different view of the world – it shapes you. It makes you independent and forces you to get out of your comfort zone every day. 



Which teachers have had an influence on your life? 

I will start with Dr. Christoph Konrad, an anesthesiologist who shared his passion for medicine with me even before I started studying in Riga when he invited me to stay and study at his department in Kantonspital Luzern in Switzerland and sparked the idea to become a doctor.

Secondly, I would like to mention Dr. Luis Pinto, who taught me at his clinic in San José in Costa Rica that to be a good doctor it takes so much more than knowledge of your subject, but also hard work, gratitude and kindness.

Many of my teachers at RSU have also been a positive influence. I was happy to have Dr. Ingus Skadiņš make us revise our notes for weekly tests over and over again, making my fourth semester almost solely microbiology studies.

I respected – and, to be honest, feared – the strong regime of Prof. Māra Pilmane and Prof. Valērija Groma which made me study histology by spending an ungodly amount of time and brain cells on this subject.

Dr. Oļegs Sabeļņikovs showed me that to be calm and confident as a doctor is a choice you can make despite high levels of stress.

I was taught by Prof. Maija Rumaka that great lectures should be as simple as possible to make students understand, but never overly simple.

Dr. Sergejs Babikovs surprised me in the best possible way, proving how easily you can change a boring lesson into a great one by being enthusiastic about teaching, and I realised with the help of Dr. Anna Miskova that condensing evidence-based medicine into short and precise action plans will be a central part of my life as a doctor.



Johannes Steibl relaxing with his girlfriend, Julia, who is also an international student studying dentistry in Latvia. Photo from personal archive.

Do you have any life values or cornerstones that you would like to share?

Gratitude, empathy, respect and modesty. These are values that I care about very much, even though I have to admit that I struggle with them myself. I think gratitude is important for the opportunities we were given: to grow up and study in Europe, to have loving parents, family and friends. This is already something to be grateful for, and often seems to be forgotten.

Empathy to be able to see the world through the eyes of someone else, defying ignorance.

Respect – towards patients, personal boundaries (with my best regards to my flatmates, I am trying to work on that!), opinions and decisions, especially when they seem wrong to us. And also respect for ourselves, which always seems to fall short of .

And last but not least – modesty – which sounds funny at first (especially after I had to list my personal achievements earlier), but I think it is a way of freeing yourself from a lot of imaginary social pressure if you do it right.

What needs to be done to make the world a better place?
Hmm. Dificult one. I will answer quite philosophically and say that everyone might start with themselves and make their own world a world worth living before changing “the” world. In the meantime stay curious, study when needed, celebrate when there is a reason, but learn to be better every day. Also, changing the world is not a thing that happens overnight but it requires time (which we should give ourselves in order to achieve it).

Where do you see yourself in the future?

In the future I see myself practising medicine somewhere, maybe paediatrics, surgery or otorhinolaryngology, hopefully with a family, still being active and curious all the time.

Rīga Stradiņš University (RSU) has a tradition of celebrating achievements and outstanding performance by expressing gratitude to the best students and staff members who have made a significant contribution to research, academic affairs or to the popularisation of RSU. On 24 March 2018 at the traditional Academic Ball, held at the Latvian Society House, RSU presented its Annual Recognition Awards in eight categories. The annual award in the category International Student of the Year is presented for outstanding academic performance and active involvement in academic and social events.