08/08/2005 at 12:00 PM EDT
Jessica Lynch is heading to college: She'll be combining more than a fair share of street smarts as she cracks the books as a scholarship student at West Virginia University in Morgantown.
The 22-year-old former prisoner of war – whose dramatic rescue from an Iraqi hospital inspired the TV movie "Saving Jessica Lynch" – tells Time magazine: "I have to say I am a little nervous – the freshmen that I'll be with were eighth-graders when I graduated from high school."
Lynch, who hopes to graduate and become a kindergarten teacher, walks with a cane – the result of her two spinal fractures, nerve damage and a shattered right arm, right foot and left leg sustained when her Humvee crashed during the firefight in the Iraqi town of Nasiriyah in March 2003.
"I feel great, though my recovery is still going slow. If I put the effort in and work at it, I think I'll be able to get rid of the canes forever. It's a goal I think I can reach," she says. "I still usually get physical therapy for about an hour a day. The only accommodation I need is a shower chair."
Lynch, a native of Palestine, W.Va., said she often thinks about the ambush and of her fellow comrades, including Army Spc. Lori Piestewa, who was killed. "Last night there were fireworks going off outside our hotel in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.," she says. "I have to literally see the fireworks. If I just hear them, they sound a little like gunshots or bombs – it kind of puts you back there."
As for her opinion of the TV movie, she says: "I saw some of it. Not all of it was accurate, so I couldn't keep watching it. I lived through it once, I don't need to again. One day, yes, I would love to sit down and watch it."