What a difference a year makes: On the May 2003 finale of ABC’s The Bachelor, Jen Schefft accepted a proposal—and a 2.8-carat Harry Winston engagement ring (she still has it)—from winery heir Andrew Firestone, 29. The couple broke up about seven months later, and now the 28-year-old Chicago public-relations consultant is set to call the shots as the series’ next Bachelorette. With the new season about to begin taping in New York City (it will air early next year), Schefft sat down with PEOPLE correspondent Barbara Sandler to discuss rose ceremonies, Mr. Right and why she thinks women are better than men at TV reality romance.
You’re sort of the rebound Bachelorette. Why try it again?
There’s a time period that you’re sad and don’t want to deal with relationships, and then you start to feel like yourself again. I’m definitely ready to find someone and start over and not let past heartbreak hold me back.
What did you learn from the breakup with Andrew?
His lifestyle is to be in a different city every week, and I could never feel settled. It was sad, especially when we both really wanted it to work out. You wonder, “What could I have done differently?” I realized how much compromise it takes to make a relationship work. You decide what you can sacrifice and what’s too much.
What kind of guy are you hoping to find this time around?
Someone who gets me. I want to be able to have my crazy moments—maybe my clothes don’t fit or my mom and I got into a fight—and he’ll feel, “There goes Jen, but she’ll be fine in half an hour.” And I want someone who gets my sense of humor—not everyone thinks I’m funny, but I want him to think so.
Looking for another millionaire?
It’s not about being sure that he makes a lot of money, but I’m an ambitious person, and I want someone else to have that as well. Still, as I get older, I’m realizing that guys who are really ambitious don’t necessarily have quality time for relationships. I’d be more willing to sacrifice a BMW for time.
The Bachelor romantic track record has been dismal, but both Bachelorettes, Trista and Meredith, are still going strong with the men they found on the show. What’s up with that?
I’m 28, and if I meet the right person, I’m not going to want to see what’s out there that’s better. Men sometimes get caught up in the excitement of it, whereas women are so happy to have finally found a person. I think that women are always more ready to settle down.
How are you approaching the rose ceremonies?
It’s going to be so hard—I hate hurting people’s feelings. It’s rejection and nobody likes to be rejected. I hope I’m able to portray to the men that this isn’t right and give them a good reason so they’re not just blind-sided. Andrew was good at that.
Do you believe in love at first sight?
No. True love takes a while.
Any ideas for a fantasy wedding?
I don’t think I want a big wedding. And I don’t want to elope to city hall. I just want a ceremony that has meaning.
What’s your happily-ever-after?
I definitely want kids—two or three. I really think friendship is the most important thing for women and men—having barbecues, maybe; a boat or a summer home sounds nice. I just want to be content.