JOE EWING knew he would receive a first-class education upon enrolling at Harvard. He just didn’t expect it would be in athletics as well as economics.

The 20-year-old made a life-changing commitment last summer when he signed up to attend one of the most famous Ivy League universities in the world at the end of his post-school gap year.

It has been a transformational experience for the Edinburgh athlete who is now living in on-campus accommodation in the Massachusetts town of Cambridge, not far from the bustling city of Boston.

But it is one he remains grateful for as he looks to squeeze every last drop out of this opportunity.

“I remember before I came here feeling that I was ready to make the transition,” he recalls. “And it’s been exactly how I had hoped, if not better.

“The biggest thing for me was how I was going to cope moving away from home for an extended period of time but it’s been fine on that front for me.

“I’m studying Economics at the moment but don’t have to declare until the middle of next year. It’s very much lecture-based and dependent on being organised and staying on top of things yourself.

“The quality of teaching you are exposed to is just crazy. The professor who takes my Economics lectures was President Obama’s chief economic advisor so being exposed to people like that is just really cool.

“All the first years live in freshman housing in the Yard, which is the main part of Harvard. But we’re really close to Boston and it’s just 15 minutes on the underground.

“My only regret is that I didn’t try to go to see the Red Sox at the end of last year. This year’s baseball season looks like it will be delayed and I feel like an idiot for not going when I had the chance!”

Athletics as well as academia was a key factor when Ewing, the Scotland 1500m under-20 record holder, was deciding where to gain his degree.

The Carol Sharp-trained runner knew that Harvard would likely be as good as anywhere but admits he’s been blown away over the last six months, both by the competitiveness of the athletics programme but also the quality of the facilities.

“It’s hard to fathom now the training I did at home given what I’m doing now,” he adds. “Everything is so accessible here. You walk across the River Charles and you’ve got the indoor track, the outdoor track, our weights facility and everything else.

“It almost seems inconceivable now to have to drive from Edinburgh to Pitreavie at rush hour for training! It will be hard going back to that one day.

“A lot of athletics programmes at other universities are funded by their American football teams but Harvard just has so much money through other things that athletics isn’t reliant on other sports.

“The athletics programme has taken up more time than I thought it might. We go to training at 3pm every day and you’re there until 7pm although the team atmosphere makes it a lot easier. It’s nice training in a big group of quality athletes of a similar age all working towards a similar goal.

“This is the first time in my life that I’m expected to perform. I’m out here because I’m a good athlete but that brings a certain responsibility to do well and not let people down.”

Ewing recently broke the fabled four-minute barrier for the mile, his indoor time of 3:58:87 making him the seventh fastest Scot over that distance.

He remains focused just now on competing for Harvard but has kept half an eye on what is happening with the Commonwealth Games in case an opportunity to represent Scotland springs up.

“It’s nice to have my progress quantified with going under four minutes as there are 40 of us on the athletics team and that makes it impossible for the coach to prescribe quantifiable individual training for all of us,” he adds.

“So it was good to get that milestone up on the board. I’ll see what happens this year in terms of running professionally in Europe.

“The US collegiate outdoor season finishes in mid-June so a lot earlier than the schedules at home. So I’ll come back then and try to run in the British champs and then there’s always the possibility of Commy Games too.

“It really depends on what the pros want to do. So if Neil [Gourley], Jake [Wightman] and Josh [Kerr] all want to take part then I won’t get a spot. But given there’s the world championships on as well this summer that might not be the case. So I’m keeping a line of communication open with Scottish Athletics and we'll see what happens.

“And it’s just nice keeping that link going so that when I finally come home for good I’m not totally alien to them.”