03/02/2012 at 02:00 PM EST
Nicki Sterling was sent home
to Texas after falling in love – and spending the night in the fantasy suite – with The Bachelor
's Ben Flajnik
Calling from the Lone Star State this week, the 26-year-old dental hygienist says she's "still in the process of completely getting over everything," and has plenty to say about skinny-dipping, her elimination and the final two.
You seemed shocked not to get a rose.
I was blindsided. Each time we were together, I felt more confident. It's hard to say who I thought was going home. I just did not think it would be me.
What went wrong?
It boils down to him having stronger feelings for two other women. Hearing him refer to me as
the "dark horse" lets me know he enjoyed my company in the beginning but didn't have a strong connection until the end. I probably had stronger feelings for him sooner than he had for me.
Some people blame the fact that you had less solo time with Ben than the final two women.
The time we spent together, although short, was very meaningful and enough to know what we had was really good. I looked at it as a compliment. He didn't need extra time to figure out that he wanted me around.
The show's host Chris Harrison thought the problem was that your relationship with Ben was immature.
I love Chris but I don't agree. Our relationship was really mature. We talked about important things, had intense conversations. He had a good grasp on my past.
I wasn't one to beg him for reassurance. I tried to make moments meaningful yet playful. Those two things are important in a relationship.
Did you get closure?
I heard what I needed to get closure. I didn't need to hear nice things to be okay with leaving or with myself. I'm a firm believer in everything happens for a reason.
Was your family disappointed it didn't work out?
They were worried. I was going through heartbreak. Their biggest fear was that I wouldn't get back on my feet. But once they saw me transition back to my daily routine, they look at it as a learning experience.
They would have loved for it to work. They enjoyed the time spent with him. They wouldn't have given their blessing if they didn't.
Has your opinion of him changed as you watch the season?
He's a great person. I would never say a bad word.
Not even after seeing the skinny-dipping scene with Courtney Robertson.
It stung a lot to see that knowing that was the same week we had our first real moments together. I wish he would have said, 'Not a good idea. The girls will be upset.' But he's a 29-year-old guy being seduced by one of the most attractive women on earth. I can't fault him in the moment.
She worked her magic. I don't know any other guys who would have done anything differently in the same situation.
Do you regret badmouthing Courtney to Ben?
I don't regret warning him in the least. If he ended up hurt and I hadn't said something, I'd somehow take the blame.
Did you buy her apologies?
I didn't buy it at all. I didn't believe her tears. It looks as though she realized her chance of making it to the end might be hindered by how she treated other people so she started to backpedal. The Courtney that I got to know wasn't sincere in that manner.
Do you buy that she loved him?
No. She gained a lot from this experience. He was a prize instead of soul mate in her eyes.
Who should he choose?
I see him with Lindzi
more. She's very laid back, easygoing. Their senses of humor are very compatible. She was there for him, was open and honest and I could see it lasting.
Rumor has it the relationship is already over.
If Courtney was chosen, I'm not surprised at all. I don't see how Ben could watch the season and not be extremely upset and disappointed with her. He's being fooled.
Are you over him? Dating again?
Not completely. It's hard to fall for somebody that doesn't fall back. The idea of dating hasn't crossed my mind since I left Switzerland.
It's been a good time for me. I've been working, hanging out with friends, focusing on myself and trying to get back to that strong confident place I was at before I left for the show. It's going to take a while to put myself out there 100 percent like on the show. I'm confident it will happen. I'm just not in any hurry.