With the class of 2016 averaging about $37,000 in student loan debt upon graduation, I understand the skepticism. And I should preface this blog by saying, I am not currently a debt-free student.

Sparing you the gory details, I originally had over $43,000 in loans when I graduated in July 2015 with my Master’s degree and now I have just over $27,000 left to pay back. The most exciting part of this preface is that there is a plan in place to discharge the federal loans by May 2017, barring any significant unforeseen circumstances, and the rest by March 2018. That will make over $43,000 in debt repaid in under 33 months. To put that in perspective, that’s like paying over $1,300 a month on your loans – that’s a lot of cash when you consider the fact that the first five months after graduation my income stream was only ~$43,000 per year. You better believe I’m excited to put that money to a different use once these loans are discharged.

But I tell you all of that only to be authentic. I’m excited to have you follow my journey of becoming a debt-free student, but I’m even more enthused by the idea of helping you to avoid repeating my story and to complete your education without going into debt.

The other thing you should know is that I earned over $55,000 in scholarships between 2007 and 2014 – full tuition for both my Bachelors and Masters programs. If I hadn’t studied abroad, I would have graduated with my Bachelors exactly $0 in debt. I worked every summer, worked part-time during the school year, lived very conservatively, and did everything I could to make sure that I started life as a freshly minted graduate without a debt burden. It probably would have worked out pretty well if life hadn’t taken a few very unexpected turns.

I don’t regret studying abroad and I wouldn’t change the unexpected turns with the benefit of hindsight. But your story won’t look exactly like mine and I hope, with the experience and tips I can provide, yours will be debt-free from beginning to end.

It is possible.