09/21/2012 at 07:00 AM EDT
Ian Terry entered the Big Brother
house a self-proclaimed nerd, but 75 days later he left feeling more mature – and $500,000 richer.
Terry, 21, beat out returning player – and former winner – Dan Gheesling to become the 14th winner of the CBS reality show
Wednesday, with six of the seven jury members voting for him to take home the grand prize.
The morning after his victory, the Tulane University engineering student spoke to PEOPLE about his personal growth while in the house, what he plans to do with the money, and why he chose to stay loyal to Dan despite his history of betrayals.
Did you think you would beat Dan in a landslide?
No. I thought it would come down to Frank and Ashley. I didn't know if she would vote for me after I nominated her during the double eviction, so it was kind of a shock to her and I wasn't sure how she felt about it when it happened. I didn't think I was going to get Jenn's vote at all. That was definitely a huge shock to me, but it worked out.
How did you grow while in the house?
When I went in the house I was very young and immature. Now I would like to think I am young and slightly more mature. I really grew up a lot in that house. That kind of experience really does the trick – you grow up when you're in there, for sure.
Why did you not even entertain the idea of getting rid of Dan?
When we got to the Final Four, I assumed it was the couple versus the Renegades. Obviously, I thought wrong. But Dan kept me because he knew neither couple would take him to the finals. So, really, I just stuck with Dan. Luckily, I pulled off the win. I thought I had a better shot against Dan, but the real reason I took Dan was that I wanted to honor my word to him. I had to honor my commitment to Dan.
Any surprises from the season that have already been revealed to you?
I was shocked that Janelle and Boogie hit the reset button [to enter the game as players]. I knew that Dan did, and I had an inkling that Britney did, but that was a surprise. And finding out that I had to win that shark veto competition during the double eviction was a huge shock.
What about Dan and Danielle's final two deal?
I was completely shocked when I found out, because Dan had given me his grandfather's cross as collateral, and I had given him something as collateral, to ensure that we would keep each other around. I mean, your grandfather's cross … that meant something.
Do you think he would have kept his word and taken you over Danielle?
No, no, no. I think I would have been gone. I really do.
Would you return to play again?
As long as I've got my degree done with, yes, I would probably return to the game. Right now I am taking off from class until January. Right now I am trying to just take a break and figure things out.
Any plans for the winnings?
I am going to pay off my student loans first and foremost and maybe a vacation or some kind of frivolous purchase like that, but I really just want to save the money up and be wise with it.