You just graduated college. What are you doing next? The answer was not "going to Disney" for these three grads profiled by CNBC—it was fleeing to Ukraine, Japan, and even a jungle in India, all to escape the crushing debt from their student loans back in the US. Chad Albright, 39, the student who ended up in Ukraine, gets a longer look in the York Daily Record, explaining how after he graduated from Millersville University in Pennsylvania in 2007 (right at the start of the recession), he owed $30,000 on his student loans and couldn't find a job other than delivering pizza. Then Albright saw a news report on teaching abroad, and in 2011, he made a desperate move: to China, to teach English to kids. He made just $1,000 a month, but it was enough to live comfortably on, and he found the work meaningful. He now teaches in Ukraine, where he's a permanent resident.
"I am much happier," he says, per CNBC, adding he hasn't checked his student loan account in eight years. Financial experts warn, however, that this extreme route doesn't absolve an alum of money owed: US wages can be garnished, Social Security income can be taken, and credit may be impacted. Plus, with interest and late fees, the original amount of the loan can quickly balloon. The pros suggest other ways to deal with student debt rather than leaving the country—e.g., refinancing or trying to get into a government repayment plan based on income—but for some, the prospect of returning just to possibly face constant calls from collection agencies and have paychecks raided isn't a draw. "I wish I could come back to America and not be scared," says Katrina Williams, the student profiled by CNBC who fled to Japan and whose debt has now grown to $100,000. (Read more student loans stories.)