Human Capital Stories

Julio Matarrita, CRUSA scholarship recipient

Julio Matarrita has always liked numbers, but he liked them even more when he saw that he could use them to help people solve problems. That’s how he decided to become an economist.

Julio studied for a master’s degree in applied economics and project management at the University of Connecticut in the U.S., thanks to the international scholarship program of the Costa Rica USA Foundation for Cooperation (CRUSA).

He was born in 1991 in Ciudad Neily, Corredores, Puntarenas, in Costa Rica’s southern zone. In those days, his father worked on a banana plantation owned by the government after the United Fruit Company left, and his mother worked in a commissary (local grocery store).

“What left the biggest mark on me from that period was when Hurricane Caesar flooded everything in 1996. I remember my father carrying me on his shoulders with water up to his knees and a few days later seeing everything in the house covered with mud,” he recalls.

He studied ten years of primary and secondary school in Palmar Norte in the Osa Peninsula, where he was also a volunteer environmentalist and outstanding soccer player on the community team. In his last two years of high school he moved to Pérez Zeledón to be able to study at that community’s scientific high school.

He lived there in a house with nine other youths from neighboring areas. “The lady who took care of us also lived in the house,” he says.

In order to study at the University of Costa Rica, he moved to the central valley. He first lived in Heredia with an aunt while he studied economics, and then he moved to Curridabat to divide his time between his jobs as professor of economics and analyst at a BAC San Jose bank and his studies of applied mathematics at the UCR.

That’s when he heard about CRUSA’s International Scholarship Program in the fields of sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). “The scholarship represented an excellent opportunity for my personal and professional growth and in the future I hope it will enable me to generate major changes in the country, especially in the southern region where I come from.”

Among his plans, Julio wants to carry out long-term projects with a global impact, two of which he hopes he can carry out successfully once he’s back in Costa Rica. “I want to contribute to helping children and young people in the southern region have more contact with science and technology. I want to take projects like Lego Education to rural communities and motivate youths to participate in the mathematics, science and technology Olympics.”

Julio also wants to share his knowledge, providing advisory to SMEs, helping them use data analysis in decision making so their decisions are backed by numbers and not just intuition. “I’d like to concentrate on SMEs in the ecological tourism sector.”