Julio Matarrita always liked numbers, but he started to like them even more when he saw that they could empower him to help people solve problems. He decided he wanted to be an economist.
Julio is now pursuing a Master’s Degree in Applied Economics and Project Management at the University of Connecticut (USA) with the support of the International Scholarships Program of the Costa Rica- USA Foundation for Cooperation (CRUSA).
He was born in 1991 in Ciudad Neily, Corredores de Puntarenas, in southern Costa Rica. His father worked on a banana plantation that had been taken over by the government following the departure of the United Fruit Company. His mother worked in a grocery store.
“From that time, what I remember most was when Hurricane Caesar flooded the whole area in 1996,” Julio says. “I remember my dad carrying me on his shoulders with water up to his knees. The next days, I saw everything in our house covered in mud.”
He went to public school in Palmar Norte, on the Osa Peninsula, where he was also a volunteer environmentalist and an outstanding player on the community’s soccer team. During his last two years of high school, he moved to the provincial capital, Perez Zeledón, to study at the Vocational High School there.
While in Perez Zeledón he lived in a house with nine other young students from remote areas.
“The lady who took care of us lived in the house, too,” he remembers.
Julio won admission to study Economics at the country’s leading public university, the University of Costa Rica. To pursue his studies there, he moved to an aunt’s home in the Central Valley, a seven-hour drive from his birthplace. As his studies progressed, he began to split his time between a job as an analyst at the BAC San José bank, a second job teaching Economics at the university, and his studies in Applied Mathematics.
That’s when he heard about the CRUSA International Scholarship Program for students of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Winning the CRUSA scholarship facilitated all aspects of Julio’s transition from a UCR student to a Master’s student in Connecticut, including his preparation in English, admissions exams and fees.
“The scholarship presented an excellent opportunity for my personal and professional future development,” Julio says. “I hope it will allow me to generate significant changes in Costa Rica, especially in the southern region where I was born and raised. ”
Among Julio’s plans are high-impact, long-term projects: “I want to contribute to children and youth in southern Costa Rica. I want them to be closer to science and technology. I plan to bring Lego Education projects to rural communities, and encourage youth participation in Olympiads in mathematics, science and technology. ”
Also, Julio wants to share his knowledge by advising small and medium enterprises, particularly those active in eco-tourism to use data analysis in decision-making, charting their course in a way that is backed by numbers and not only by intuition.