After nearly 20 years of having a student loan hanging over her head, Katarina Browne-Schroijen is a free woman.

Now she is encouraging others - particularly those living overseas - to get on top of their loan and to not let it "eat you up" as she let it do to her for so many years.

The 37-year-old left for Australia when she was 21 and later moved to London, before going to Dubai, where she worked as a flight attendant for 10 years.

She now lives in Maastrich, in Holland, with her new husband.


While overseas, she said, she always had it in the back of her mind that her student loan was growing and yet did not do anything about it.

"I just forgot about it a little bit. I wasn't getting any emails or mails. It was always in the back of my mind every time I came home that I needed to pay it.

"I wanted to pay it, but it was just not knowing how to go about it."

Mrs Browne-Schroijen's original loan was for $8000.

But interest and penalty fees increased that amount over the years and in the end she had to pay just over $32,000.

She said because she was living overseas it was easy to not think about the money she owed.

But paying it off last week had her dancing outside the bank.

"I felt really good. I just want other people to be inspired to take that step and make the call. It feels so good to do." The Inland Revenue Department has for the past year been running the overseas-based borrowers initiative in a bid to recover millions of dollars owed from student loans.

IRD workers have been contacting those overseas by phone and email and have also connected to them via advertising on social networking sites including Facebook.

The scheme focused mainly on people now living in Britain and Australia. There are now moves to reach other parts of the world.

Inland Revenue collections manager Richard Owen said that the initiative had recovered about $15.5 million in the past year.

Mr Owen said that for many, the idea of owing tens of thousands to Inland Revenue was daunting and many people simply tried to block it out.

But making contact was the first step to cutting back their student loan, he said.

"We want to ensure that people can move on. The sooner they can get rid of the loan and pay it off - or at least get in a good place to manage their loans - that's what we want to encourage."