Establishing a Contact Abroad

Many fellowships abroad require students to establish a contact or an affiliation with the host country prior to applying. Having a contact abroad demonstrates to selection committees that you are serious about the fellowship opportunity. It also shows support for your project in the country and inspires confidence in you as a candidate.

Before you contact anyone in your host country, research the appropriate schools, organizations, scholars, and programs that relate to your project. Ask Brown faculty who have relevant research or teaching interests if they know of someone who might be an appropriate contact for you. Then, carefully draft and revise a communication that you will email to the people with whom you want to work. A well-written email that is both specific and succinct will make a potential contact more likely to respond positively and to “invite” you to pursue your project at his or her institution.

Here is one way to go about it: 

  • Begin by explaining who you are and why you are writing to them. If a Brown faculty member suggested the contact, be sure to mention the professor by name. This is your first paragraph, which should be no more than two or three sentences. 
  • The second paragraph should explain what interests you about their program. Include enough detail to demonstrate that you actually know something about what they do and where they do it.
  • Then outline your research interests and explain how your proposed plan of study fits with their work and their institution. Include your year and concentration at Brown, the award(s) for which you plan to apply, and the project you hope to pursue. 
  • Close your email by stating your willingness to work with them in any way that makes sense to them. 

After you’ve established a good connection with your potential contact, ask the person if he or she would be willing to write a letter of support on your behalf to the application committee. The nature of the support can range from casual assistance--such as inviting you to a few events, introducing you to others with relevant interests, and helping you access libraries--to more in-depth help such as providing you with lab space, supervising your field research, and reading your manuscript(s). Keep in mind--and remind your potential contacts--that the letter of support only obligates them to serve as an informal advisor or point person for you. You would be an independent scholar fully funded by the national fellowship or Brown.

Your contact's letter should explain his or her work, the program or institution that sponsors it, and the reasons that your project is a good match for the institution. The letter should also say that the institution or organization would welcome you and that it expects to benefit greatly from your presence if you receive the fellowship.

Web resources

For a list by country of most universities around the world, go to 
http://www.mit.edu:8001/people/cdemello/geog.html.