Hi everyone,
I'm supposed to write a motivation letter for a European university. I was born in the US but live in France and haven't had to write in English for a while. I've never written a motivation letter and can't really understand the difference between a motivation letter and a statement of purpose.
Please look it over and let me know what really needs to be changed, and if you can help with my whole motivation letter/statement of purpose confusion I'd would be ever so grateful.

I sat by myself in the Xxxx course with my head in my notebook, doodling idly before class began. I was only one year away from graduating from university and there I was: unchallenged, without direction, and quite frankly, utterly bored. Education had never been difficult for me, but finding what I wanted out of life was proving to be the opposite. The professor walked in and began to hand back the last graded assignment, but attached to my assignment was something else. It was information for a study abroad program in xxxxx dealing with sustainable development and a note that read “I think that you should take a look at this”. What I was about to discover was a connection between culture and environmental development that has fascinated me ever since.
In December 2007, one semester early, I graduated from the xxxxxx with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Anthropology. Not only was I admitted to the Honors College, but I also graduated Summa Cum Laude. In addition, I participated in a study abroad program in Senegal that was focused on sustainable development, and later used this experience as a basis for my undergraduate thesis. The semester I graduated I was able to present my thesis “xxxxx” publicly, and submit a copy to the xxxxxxx library for use by future students or faculty.
When I graduated, however, I still had doubts about the next step. Not having a certain idea of what I wanted to do in the future, I had not even applied to graduate school. Writing a statement of purpose can be rather difficult when one does not have a purpose. I had always been the student with straight A’s who was in Honors programs, but I knew there is more to life than having good grades in school. So, I embarked on a journey that took me to Argentina for over a year, then on to the rest of South America. Although my time living and traveling abroad does not correspond directly to my field of interest, it has certainly made a tremendous impact on my life. These past two years I have been challenged and pushed more than I ever was in school. I learned how to truly make it on my own, how to survive and thrive in a setting completely foreign to me and how to deal with being unprepared for the obstacles that life throws in one’s way. I can honestly say that I am also now more patient, confident, and resilient than I have ever been. Most of all, however, my time away allowed me to take a step back and reflect on what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I now feel surer than ever that this is the right path for me, and I am not afraid to follow it.
Today, my interest in culture and development has not subsided, bringing me to this master program in xxxxxx. I have been interested in culture since I can remember. Although I excelled in all subjects, I chose Anthropology as a major, knowing that it would be better to study what interests me than what would get me a job in a field that I am less passionate about. Before going to xxxxx, I did not know much about sustainable development, nor did I think about the prospect of it going well with cultural anthropology. However, during my time abroad I realized that anthropology, and cultural knowledge is crucial to any developmental issue, and became interested in the need for these two things to work together. What I saw in Senegal, and during later travels through South America, has convinced me that development, and especially environmental development, is one of the most important issues of my time. I am also certain that if any progress is going to be made in other countries cultural relativity must be one of the core considerations.
In my undergraduate thesis I argue just that, stating that without cultural relativity, programs –like the eco-village programs employed by the program I was a part of – simply do not work. I explore more specifically the relation between the environment and religious beliefs and believe that this is an area highly overlooked when dealing with these sorts of development issues. Similarly, during my travels in South America I saw that indigenous culture is slowly being repressed in many areas, which is certainly not conducive to the healthy development of a country or a people. Development must occur along with respect for the current culture and customs if it is to work effectively.
This knowledge and this passion leave me certain that I want to have a career in this field and are my main reason for applying to the Master program in xxxxxx. I long to be an active part of these issues I believe in, and having a Master’s degree will no doubt help me tremendously. Although I want to be an acting force in issues dealing with development, I recognize that I need more knowledge and training in this field. Completing this program will be my next step in learning, which will in turn prepare me to embark on a journey that will not only be meaningful to me, but also to those I can possibly help with that knowledge. Ideally, I would like to use this degree to work with organizations that spearhead projects in environmental development in countries where the idea remains largely unknown. I am I certain I have excellent skills as a researcher, evidenced by prior research done during university and my aptitude for not only completing assignments correctly but also in a timely manner. These are not the only skills I possess, however. My time living and traveling abroad made me realize that I can also adapt to any situation, hold up well under stress, and analyze situations that are difficult. That I have these skills sets makes me certain I can perform well in a situation where not only would I have to complete research and gather information but also deal with situations that may be new and stressful.
The program at xxxx is ideal for my path of study because it incorporates anthropological study with development study. Many schools offer anthropology programs or development programs, but the combination of the two fits my interests exactly. This type of study would not only enable to me to delve deeper into my specific interests but would also help me in the future with the kind of work I want to do. Also, because of xxxxx’s experience and history of research and cooperation with countries in xxxxx I would be able to continue study in a region of deep interest to me. I also believe that my prior experience in this field is an asset for a university such as xxxxx that itself has interests in this part of the world. Being that xxxxx is a research institute I will also be able to conduct studies in this part of the world relating to this field on a much larger scale than a university which has less ties with that area and a program less focused on research.