Student prepares for year-long studies in Africa




Sixteen-year-old Jessica Fabin is just like her mother, at least in one respect. She has always wanted to travel.

"She's my daughter, so she gets the urge to travel and learn about other cultures very naturally," Mary Fabin said, referring to her daughter.

Next year, the teen's dream will become a reality, when she heads off to South Africa to live as an exchange student for a year.

"My application has been accepted by AFS-USA and then they send it over to South Africa and they accepted it, so now I'm waiting to hear from a host family, and then once I have a host family, I'll be able to get my visa and what not and I'll leave the end of February, and then I won't get back until January 2015," Jessica said.

She hadn't really considered the idea of being an exchange student until a friend returned from her own student exchange trip to Japan, telling Jessica she should do it.

"She absolutely loved it, and by the end of my sophomore year, she had me convinced that I wanted to go on an exchange program," Jessica said.

Initially, Jessica thought New Zealand sounded like a good destination, but when she found out that South Africa was an option, she changed her tune.

"Mom's actually been to Africa before, not South Africa though," she said. "If you go downstairs in my house, African stuff is everywhere. It's just always been around."

She said that when she approached her parents with the idea, she knew she would have to begin with her father, Rob Fabin.

"I told my dad, 'Dad, we have to approach mom with this carefully,'" she said, prompting laughter from her mother.

Mary's initial reaction was no, then no again and a third no.

"I remember it because one of my classmates happened to be at the other table, and she agreed with my mom, and I was like, 'No, you can't agree with my mom. You're not supposed to do that. You're supposed to be on my side,' " Jessica said, laughing.

Eventually Mary caved and said that while she's excited for her daughter, the idea of her being gone for a year is something she doesn't relish.

"I have mixed feelings. I wish I was going with her, would probably sum it up, just because I love that sort of thing, so I can't tell her no. But I don't want to be without her for a year. I just want to go with her," Mary said, laughing.

Jessica reassured her mom that she will stay in constant contact with her, via Skype, social media and by telephone, but Mary Fabin said that it won't be the same as having her at home.

"What I'm most nervous about is I can't give my Jessie hugs for a whole year," Mary said.

Jessica said the two joke that she will have to send her mother care packages while she's away.

The cost of the trip, which includes tuition, lodging, food, insurance and round trip airfare, is $12,500. In order to raise some of the funds, the family is holding a spaghetti dinner on tonight at First Baptist Church on the corner of 11th Street and Jones Avenue.

"There's also going to be a pie auction and a silent auction," Jessica said.

The fundraiser will take place from 5 to 8 p.m., and there will be a suggested donation of $10 for the meal.

The goal is to raise $5,000 this weekend. There are other things the family plans to do to raise the remainder of the funds. Jessica said her grandmother, Ann Floyd, also has plans for raising money.

"Grandma is dead set on doing fudge in December," Jessica said.

While it wasn't a requirement for Jessica's trip, the family is hosting an exchange student from Mexico, 17-year-old Juan Pablo Medina.

"We heard that there was someone who wanted to come to America, and they hadn't found a host yet, so we offered. I figured, 'Well, if someone's going to take my daughter in and take care of her for a year, the least I can do is take care of somebody else's kid for a year,'" Mary said.

Jessica plans to share her overseas adventures via her blog,

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