Joe Ewing FP Hits the Ground Running in his First Term at Harvard
Former Pupil, Joe Ewing, was School Captain at Stewart’s Melville College in 2019/20 and is now studying Economics at Harvard. Joe had a strong academic record while at school but he was also a successful athlete, notching up a number of impressive achievements including breaking a Scottish Under-20 record for the 1500 metres, which had remained unbroken for half a century, winning the Ron Pickering Memorial Fund Grant and becoming the Scottish U20 800m athletics champion. We caught up with Joe to find out how he is enjoying his first semester.
You are about to finish your first term at Harvard. What have been your highlights so far?
This semester has been extremely special and memorable for a number of reasons. From arriving on campus on my first day in August, completely alone, to now having a wide array of friends from around the world. It really is hard for me to comprehend how much has changed in my first few months in the US.
If I had to boil it down to one memory, it would have to be travelling to Tallahassee for the NCAA Cross Country Championships at the end of November. Although I didn’t have a particularly impressive race, as a team, Harvard finished 12th in the nation, which was the best performance of an Ivy League programme this century.
What is your fondest memory of your time at Stewart’s Melville College?
Answering this question really does bring a smile to my face. There are countless moments from my time at school which could arguably be described as my fondest memory. However, the memory that tops them all has to be when Stewart’s Melville College defeated George Watson’s College in the final of the 2019 Scottish Schools’ Rugby Cup, a date which has since been appropriately crowned as ‘Stew Mel day’. Watching my best friends, who I have grown up with, perform on that kind of stage and knowing exactly what it meant to each and every one of them made the evening all the more special. The euphoria experienced on that night will be seriously hard to beat for the rest of my life.
At Stewart’s Melville College you were a strong athlete and won an athletics scholarship to Harvard but athletics is not the only string to your bow. You also did well academically, and you were a strong leader, becoming School Captain in your final year. Would you say the breadth of your accomplishments are unusual at Stewart’s Melville College?
In my opinion, one of the biggest strengths of Stewart’s Melville College has to be the wide array of achievements by people in a multitude of contexts. I remember enjoying hearing the extensive list of accomplishments in assembly every second week, never failing to be impressed by my classmates. I would also say that athletic and academic achievement are not mutually exclusive. Many of the factors which contributed to my athletic success, such as commitment and my willingness to learn, were also of paramount importance in contributing to my success in the classroom.
One of the things that I always found special about Stewart’s Melville College is that excellence is uniformly expected in and outside of the classroom. Being an athlete does not exempt you from working hard in class. I remember the many times where I would need to spend my lunchtimes in the school Library catching up on work which I had missed due to competing but my teachers would always be there to provide any one-to-one support with anything which I was struggling to understand.
Which two things did you learn at ESMS that you still value now?
In hindsight, the intangible benefits of my time at ESMS are what I value the most now as a Former Pupil. Understanding the importance of treating others with the utmost respect is probably the most important thing that I learned. Having the opportunity to meet so many formative figures in my time at school played a huge role in this. There are some teachers from my time at ESMS who I will fondly remember my time with for the rest of my life.
Also, I didn’t learn this until my final year of school (much to my detriment in earlier years) but I really think that the importance of understanding how to say no is an underestimated skill. Especially at a school such as Stewart’s Melville College, there are going to be times where there are dozens of tasks on your plate due to the abundance of opportunities, all assigned by different teachers, for different subjects and for different reasons. This can become extremely overwhelming, and it is not always necessary to say yes to every single task which is asked of you.
Why did you choose Harvard and what opportunities is it giving you?
It goes without saying that the name of Harvard carries immense weight and will help me for the rest of my life in a vocational context. Honestly though, this played only a small role in my decision to come here for college. Probably the biggest factor for me was the nature of the track programme, along with loving Boston/Cambridge as a city. After growing up in Edinburgh, I do not think that I could survive in a university campus, hours from a city, which is why having a bedroom only twenty minutes from the city centre works well for me.
At Stewart’s Melville College there were always events going on and Harvard is very similar. There are always opportunities for me as a student to broaden my horizons by trying something new. For example, this past week I spent a lunchtime with Jason Furman, the Chief Economic Advisor to the President during the Obama administration, where I learned about fiscal policy from a man directly responsible for huge healthcare reform in the United States. Every day, you can get out of your comfort zone and learn something new with a professor who is likely to be a world leader in their field. This is what makes Harvard special to me.
What advice would you give to any current pupils thinking about studying abroad or applying for a sports scholarship?
My biggest piece of advice would absolutely be to just go for it. The vast majority of coaches will have contact details listed on the college’s website, and you lose absolutely nothing by reaching out through sending them an email. A lot of college recruiting is built upon rapport with coaches, so reaching out virtually is a natural first step.
I remember it was during breaktime in Sixth Year when I chose to email coaches. Whilst uninspired doing UCAS applications, my friend told me that I might as well email some coaches and see who replied. I chose to email the coaches from Harvard, Princeton and Stanford because I figured these were strong academic schools with high calibre athletics opportunities. Within a week, all three had sent me a positive reply and the process blossomed from there.
I must also say that I owe Mr. Garden the world for all of his help throughout the application process - I definitely would not be here without him. There were so many nuances of the application process which I did not understand, and he went out of his way to educate himself on the best way to help me. I am forever thankful for all that he did for me.
What are your plans after Harvard?
This is a question which I have been asked dozens of times since arriving on campus in August. As of right now, I genuinely have no idea. I still do not know whether I would like to come home and work in the UK after college or stay and work in the US.
Life after college is something which I will probably put off considering until I absolutely have to. Fortunately, there are so many career advisers here which I am sure will help to point me in the right direction.
What do you miss most about Edinburgh?
Being away from home for a prolonged period of time has definitely made me miss things that I didn’t realise that I cared much about. In all honesty, it is probably home cooking which I miss the most. The food here at Harvard is good but there is nothing which compares to some of the meals mum makes at home.
Additionally, I miss spending time with my friends from school, many of whom I have not had the opportunity to see since summer, and in some cases before Covid. I am looking forward to being home for a few weeks over Christmas and having the opportunity to catch up with them all.