I am entering my fifth month out of 10 on Rotary Exchange in India, and I am having the most wonderful experience. I have learned many things, but there are a few life lessons that rise above the rest.

This month is dedicated to the third.

The first thing I learned in India is to look both ways before crossing the street. The second thing is how to say no. The third thing I learned in India is how to say yes.

I am fully aware that last month I said that it was quite advisable to say no in many situations, but one simply cannot go through life refusing everything offered to them. In fact, it is a very vital skill to know when to say yes. To begin with, Indians love you when you accept everything they offer.

This includes food, invitations to stay in their home, gifts, and their general hospitalities. It is the responsibility of the exchange student to make all possible efforts to be accepted into the culture and society in which they find themselves, and the best way to accomplish this is to please the adults.

Therefore, when I visit someone’s home, even if I have eaten, I accept the food they offer.

When I am invited to visit for a few days, I smile and nod and they are reassured that they are good hosts. I rarely do stay with anyone, but when I do I find that I am forced to make the best of everything. They are offended when I try to refuse.

This lesson also has a very practical, albeit different, application in the general world, Rotary Exchange included.

It is necessary, for one’s own sake, to accept all opportunities when they are presented. I know that had I said no to just a few more opportunities during my time in India so far, I would have missed out on the wealth of knowledge and excitement and information that had put itself in my path.

By saying yes and living life to the fullest, I have been experiencing happiness and a greater sense of self-realization every day.

I say yes and I am taken for the most fantastic ride through the ancient and the modern and the conflict and the peace. When I say yes, I rise above petty complaints and give my mind and body the chance to realize their full potential.

I am good at saying yes now. Yes means acceptance and change. It means opportunity and a bright future.

It means contentment. I can truly say that yes is the most valuable word in my vocabulary.

Virginia Ofer is a Cooperstown Rotary Exchange student in India. She can be reached via e-mal at She is willing to send biweekly updates about her exchange to anyone who is interested.

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