Falling in Love with the IEP

Relationships and friendships established, callings found, hobbies and passions started – over the years, we’ve heard of a myriad of positive outcomes related to IEP experiences. Read about the memorable impacts on some of our alumni’s lives below.

Sheida Danesh ’10 & Rob Dircks ’10

German IEP & mechanical engineering
Staff engineer & mechanical engineer at SARA Inc., Connecticut/California

Rob and Sheida hanging out in Stuttgart before Frühlingsfest in 2009. Photo courtesy of Sheida Danesh

“Despite being in the same major – mech. eng. + GIEP – my husband Rob and I never met each other at URI. Both of us were extremely excited to be in Germany, to meet people and to go on adventures. We got to know each other through student events held with other international students and also from waiting for the Strassenbahn at Weststadt. 

They say if you want to get to know someone, you should travel with them. We certainly got the opportunity to do that in our year abroad. We traveled all around Europe, flew on cheap airlines, and stayed in even cheaper hostels. During our internships, Rob would visit me in Giessen from Friedrichshafen almost every weekend. Needless to say, we were in love. 

Rob and Sheida’s family excited for their newest addition in 2023. Photo courtesy of Sheida Danesh

After we got back to the States, we were both lucky enough to live in the IEP house together, deepening our relationship further. Since then we have gone long-distance, and have moved across the country together 2 times.

Now, 15 years later, we are married, have two beautiful children, work together at the same company, and are still very much in love. Without the IEP we wouldn’t have met each other! Thanks for bringing us together.”


Nevan Hanumara ’04

French IEP & mechanical engineering
Research Scientist at MIT (MechE), Cambridge, MA

“To describe URI’s IEP as life changing would be an understatement. Since graduating my professional and personal life has taken me all around the world, from collaborations in Europe to projects in Africa, and, in every case, I can trace my comfort and facility working overseas to the IEP. For this, the credit is due to Prof. Grandin for his love and deep care in conceiving and growing our program. IEP truly made me a global engineer!”

Shawn Drew 10

German IEP & mechanical engineering
E/E Integrator at BMW Manufacturing, SC

 “Taking part in the IEP changed my life in ways that I could not foresee when I first decided to sign up but have become much clearer to me over time. Reflecting back on my experience 18 years later has made me realize how important the program itself and the study-abroad year were in developing lifelong friendships, personal independence, and valuable intercultural experience that I still rely on to this day. No other program provides such an opportunity to put yourself outside of your comfort zone with peers, and jump head-first into a completely new culture. A few of my fellow IEPers, whom I met during my study abroad year, became some of my closest friends that I am still in touch with today, even while living in entirely different parts of the country. The intercultural knowledge and skills I gained during this time have played a fundamental role in my career advancement and set me apart from other job applicants early on. I truly cannot express in words how grateful I am to have participated in and graduated from the IEP. The IEP changed my life in the best ways possible and I love the decision I made to join this program.”

During their first week in Germany, a group of 8 students traveled via an overnight train from Braunschweig to Munich to experience Oktoberfest! Left to right: Shawn Drew, GIEP ’10; Phil DaSilva, GIEP ’09; Justin Freeman, GIEP ’09; Jarrod Pierce, GIEP ’09. [Sep 23rd, 2008] Photo credit: Shawn Drew
Working with an E70 X5M test vehicle during my internship with BMW AG in Munich. [Aug 9th, 2009] Photo courtesy of Shawn Drew

Kevin Suggs 23

Discovering cool new sights in Japan. Photo courtesy of Kevin Suggs

Japanese IEP & computer engineering 
Engineer at NUWC, RI 

“What I thought was an easy ticket for study abroad turned into an invaluable experience. What I love about the IEP is the abundance of opportunity. Before going abroad, I was able to broaden my perspective and build a community. Then abroad I got to see what I learned in action and expand my network on top of traveling and being independent. With these experiences, I’ve been able to grow so much and that’s all thanks to the IEP.”





Brendan Grealish ’13

Traveling together to St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. Photo courtesy of Brendan Grealish

German IEP & industrial engineering
Product Manager High Voltage Components at Sensata Technologies, Germany

“During my time in the IEP, I formed many lifelong bonds that now stretch across multiple continents, however, one bond in particular sticks out. That is the bond I have with my wife, Tiffany, who I met during my year abroad at the TU Braunschweig.

We met during orientation and stayed in touch throughout the semester, eventually starting to date, as soon as I worked up the courage to ask. We continued our relationship long-distance during my internship at Deutsche Bahn in Mainz, later when I returned to Rhode Island to complete the program and then further after I started my career through ZF’s International Trainee Program, eventually landing together in Osnabrück, where we lived for 5 years and had our first son. Since then, we have moved back to the US when I started working for Sensata Technologies, where we had our second son, and then back again to Germany, where we currently are living. 

I have the IEP to thank for opening the door to so many new relationships, especially giving me the opportunity to find the love of my life. The IEP opened up many new personal and professional opportunities for me to learn and grow as a person and an engineer. I still keep in contact with many of the friends, professors and colleagues I have met over the years and am grateful to have had such an experience.”

A weekend trip to Paris. Photo courtesy of Brendan Grealish
The Grealish family from Christmas 2023. Photo courtesy of Brendan Grealish

Jamie Davis ’23

German IEP & mechanical engineering 
Process engineer at Thales Group, US

Jamie Davis and his international friends visit the famous Newport Cliff Walk. Photo courtesy of Jamie Davis

“Having been a part of the IEP program has had lasting impacts on me. Through this program and during my time living abroad, in Germany, I was fortunate enough to form friendships with people I otherwise would have never come across in my lifetime. Maintaining these relationships, years after leaving the country, is truly a special aspect of my life and I am lucky to have met these people. It was so special to have then hosted these friends in my home country when they came to visit. This program allowed me to better integrate into the life of individuals living in different countries and gave me the opportunity to form lifelong bonds which keep me grounded. I am grateful and proud to have been a part of the IEP program.”

Brenno Ribeiro ’17

German IEP & mechanical engineering
Software Engineer at Google in California

“Joining the IEP was one of the best decisions of my life. I got to travel to a new country, learn the language, and experience a culture that was totally different from what I was accustomed to. I was a part of the German IEP from 2012 to 2017. As part of the program, I got to spend time in Germany from 2016 to 2017. During my time there, I had countless experiences that to this day made my year abroad the best year of my life. I loved being immersed in a foreign culture and interacting with people from completely different backgrounds.

I joined the German IEP because of my passion for languages and motorsports. Germany is one of the world leaders in motorsports with iconic brands such as Porsche, BMW, Mercedes, etc… Because of the IEP, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to intern at Porsche in Germany. That is an experience that I will always cherish and that I believe has opened many doors for me in my career. My time in Germany has always been a topic of discussion during job interviews and it is something I proudly discuss.

I made lifelong relationships because of the IEP. My year was the first year that we had the choice to go to Darmstadt instead of Braunschweig during our time abroad. I decided to go to Darmstadt and, as we were the first class, we had quite a small group. We became very tight-knit as we had to depend on each other to navigate a new city, culture and language. I still maintain contact with all of our class as they became some of my best friends. I went to the wedding of one of my classmates this past year who had met his wife during his time abroad with the IEP!

The IEP has had a tremendous impact on my life and it is a program that I absolutely fell in love with. I will never forget my time in Germany… the experiences I had, the relationships I made, the frustrating but beautiful German language. I am who I am today partly because of the IEP.”