There are actually many reasons . . .
In Thailand, on my last trip there, by shear coincidence I was introduced to a guy who was involved with a university robotics club. He is now a good friend, and he had shown me around and introduced me to people. If I ever go back, its one of the first places Ill visit. A PhD from CMU also started a robotics graduate program over there, and a few of my friends know him. Yet another good connection . . .http://mail.fibo.kmutt.ac.th/FIBO_Eng/
In Cali the labs I visited were work related. We were trying to find professors to work with us as research collaborators.
I have about 8 friends that I know from college that have started robotics companies. And now I know a few more from this website (you know who you are
If you want connections, go to robot competitions and try to become friends with your competitors. Help them out, and they will help you too. I made really good friends from the MOBOT competition, for example.
To be honest there arent many robotics labs in the world. If you want to study robots, go to CMU
Its a no brainer