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 faculty who have research or teaching interests relevant to the country if they know anyone whom they would recommend you contact. Then, email the people with whom you want to work. Introduce yourself, describe your interests, and present an outline of your research and/or proposed plan of study. Include your year of graduation and major at Amherst, the award(s) for which you plan to apply, and the project you hope to pursue. Explain why you chose to write to them and what about their program interests you. Be brief! A good introduction will make a potential contact more likely to respond positively and to “invite” you to pursue your project at his or her institution.
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 scholarship.
In the letter of support, your contact should explain his or her work and/or the program or institution. The letter should indicate your contact's familiarity with your proposed project and belief that it would be a good match with his or her interests and home institution. The letter should say that the institution or organization would welcome you and that it expects to benefit greatly from your presence if you receive the fellowship.