Enriched through International Travel

Picture of Bushra with a mosque in the background
Ever since studying in the Middle East, Bushra Khaliq has become even more curious about the world around her. As a Pakistani-American with spina bifida, she wants to share her international travel tips and encourage more people with disabilities to get curious.

From her experiences in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, Bushra has learned a thing or two about traveling with a physical disability. She understands that planning for medications, bathroom breaks, and navigating the airports can make the overall experience go more smoothly.

“I leave my house as early as possible. For example at the airport if I need a wheelchair, I have to get there earlier than usual just to be sure I'll get the assistance I need. Sometimes the wheelchair doesn't arrive early and I fear I may be late for my flight.”

She wants to be as independent as possible, yet she also has accepted that limited accessibility abroad or even airport security requirements can make using only her leg braces to walk less reliable than a wheelchair and assistance from strangers, which is occasionally necessary.

"Particularly in Saudi Arabia, I wanted to be able to do everything myself while I was there but I was unable to. This was an adjustment for me.”

The need for assistance has brought her into many situations where foreign language skills have served her well. In most cases, Bushra could speak the language of those who were assisting her, but sometimes she found other forms of communication like gestures to be useful.

Yet at the same time, she has discovered that, possibly because of differing perceptions of disability, there are always those strangers who don’t accept what she is capable of doing, which is why patience is key.

“My advice first and foremost is to be patient. Patient because many people in foreign countries do not have experience with such things as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), so it may be difficult to grasp what you do or even do not need. They may think that since you are in a wheelchair that you're incapable of handling anything.”

That is why she has not let some of the challenges of international travel hold her back from what have ultimately been enriching opportunities, which have contributed to her curiosity about the world beyond the United States.

“Ever since I was in the Middle East I’ve always loved learning about cultures and that could possibly be one reason why I chose my career path.”

Bushra is working toward a Master’s in Educational and Interdisciplinary Studies with an emphasis on language, culture, and education. She hopes to one day teach English as a Second Language and eventually direct a school. Bushra is also passionate about enabling more people with disabilities to travel abroad.

“Go abroad no matter what anyone tells you. It’ll work out in the end.”