ASSIST Thunder Bay Provides Helping Hand for International Students

By Michael Charlebois

For international students new to Thunder Bay, the transition can be difficult. With the added stress of the COVID-19 pandemic, students were feeling a sense of hopelessness as the academic year unfolded, and they weren’t getting the support they needed.

That’s what came to the attention of third-year Lakehead University business student Silas Young. Young, who sits on the Lakehead University Student Union board, was posting bursary opportunities on social media when he received feedback that international students weren’t qualified for the same opportunities as domestic students. “There was a general sense among them—I heard things like, ‘I feel like I’m down to my identity. I feel like there’s not enough support,’” Young says.

This prompted Young to chair a new program, ASSIST Thunder Bay, which attempts to provide financial aid for international students, as well as gather existing resources, and put them all in one central hub. As of the fall semester in 2020, international students made up 15.8% of the student body at Lakehead University, and despite the rapid growth in size over recent years, Young feels as though the resources for this group haven’t exactly kept pace.

“I don’t think international students are being treated enough as a priority,” he says. With jobs across the city being lost to the pandemic, and a rise in tuition fees for international students, there’s a large number of new community members feeling the pinch. “When the COVID pandemic first hit, certain students expressed they had lost their sponsors, and they were having difficulty staying in the country, let alone staying at their university,” Young says. “A lot of students didn’t have the necessary support to get their lives together and continue pursuing their dreams.”

The group also hopes to host events to further help ease in students from a social standpoint. In December, the program provided 100 holiday meals to give students a sense of belonging over the holiday season. Young believes this sense of inclusivity benefits the student body as a whole. “When you’re connecting with different people who have different ideas and come from different places, it enhances your own self-growth and learning,” he says.

ASSIST is still looking to fill vacant board positions for community leaders who are interested. For more info visit