As the Hogwarts screen saga draws to a close ("Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1" opens Nov. 19, with "Part 2" due in July), 20-year-old Emma Watson, a.k.a. Hermione Granger, has hung up her broomstick -- but not her bookbag. The Brown University sophomore tells PARADE's Jeanne Wolf why she's putting college before career:
I get some amazing offers to act, and sometimes it's hard to say, "No, I'm going to stay here and do my homework." People are like, "What do you mean she's not available?" I may do some theater next summer, but this college experience is really important to me, and I won't give it up for anything. I'm not going to school just for the academics--I wanted to share ideas, to be around people who are passionate about learning.
Being at Brown has totally taken me out of my comfort zone. I'm so proud that I went to a different country to study and really spread my wings. My dad was very set on me staying in the U.K. and going to Cambridge. So my decision to go to university in America kind of came out of nowhere for my parents. It took a while for my dad to come round, but they both said they would support me if it was what I wanted.
I didn't call home for three months. I'd send text messages, but it was too hard to pick up the phone: I'd just burst into tears. Dad told me, "Be yourself and you'll be fine." My mom was more like, "Make sure you wear a warm coat." She sent me thermals and English chocolates.
My days as a student are structured so differently from being on a movie set, where I had people constantly telling me what to do. When you're filming, someone needs to know where you are every second of the day; here no one tells me what time I can have lunch, when I can go to the bathroom. It's incredibly empowering and liberating. My friends think I'm crazy because I get so much joy out of really simple pleasures like staying up late talking or deciding to go for a walk. And bagels--they're the best thing ever! Americans just love variety; there's so much choice, it's overwhelming. But I love trying the blueberry and raisin and cinnamon bagels. Luckily, I exercise a lot.
Fun is something I've undervalued in the last 10 years [when she made 10 films, including eight Harry Potters]. I never made time for it, yet it's so important to your health and general happiness. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I have to learn to be good at having fun.
There have been days when a magic wand would have come in handy. I had serious issues with the code on my locker--remembering the numbers and how to turn it one way and then the other. I would be there for 15 minutes on the verge of tears because I couldn't open this bloody locker to get my mail!
The amazing thing is that everyone here is interested in their own lives, so they aren't nosy about mine. I'm used to people being intrusive and gossipy, but I can be anonymous. My best friend at Brown has never seen a Harry Potter movie or read the books. And one guy I dated didn't know anything about the films, much less that I was one of the stars, which I found hilarious.
It's taken me a year to figure out that I should trust people and let them in a bit more. At the beginning I felt slightly like I was living two lives, as if I was schizophrenic. Slowly but surely, I'm letting the people I trust and love see more of me as a complete person. They've been surprisingly understanding and respectful. I've been lucky -- really lucky.
Watch Emma Watson in an exclusive clip from "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows":