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“My life has changed completely since the show. I’ve grown immensely as a person, and as a woman," JoJo Fletcher tells PEOPLE

By Aili Nahas and Octavia Akoulitchev
April 10, 2019 11:00 AM
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In the 16 years since the debut of The Bachelorette, there have been plenty of tears, plenty of drama and yes — plenty of roses.

But for the former Bachelorettes themselves, 12 of whom united for a two-hour TV special airing on ABC May 6, their collective journeys have brought more joy than heartache.

“One of the best things is the love and support we get from the fans,” Becca Kufrin, 29, who found love with fiancé Garrett Yrigoyen on the show in 2018, tells PEOPLE. “They want everyone to succeed and be happy, and that’s really great to see, not just for me, but for everyone who comes after me.”

Kufrin joined fellow alums Trista Sutter, DeAnna Stagliano, Jillian Harris, Ali Fedotowsky-Manno, Ashley Rosenbaum, Emily Maynard Johnson, Desiree Siegfried, Andi Dorfman, Kaitlyn Bristowe, JoJo Fletcher and Rachel Lindsay, many of whom already keep up with each other, despite being spread across the country.

BECCA KUFRIN, EMILY MAYNARD-JOHNSON, DESIREE SIEGFRIED, ANDI DORFMAN, ASHLEY ROSENBAUM, TRISTA SUTTER, CHRIS HARRISON, JILLIAN HARRIS, ALI FEDOTOWSKY-MANNO, JOELLE "JOJO" FLETCHER, RACHEL LINDSAY, KAITLYN BRISTOWE, DEANNA STAGLIANO
Credit: John Fleenor/ABC

“Even though we’re all different ages we’re all friends,” says Fedotowsky-Manno, 34, whose season aired in 2010. “We’re like sisters, it’s really cool.”

And over the years, the women have bonded over everything from breakups to babies (18 and counting!).

“If I hadn’t had the Bachelorette experience, I don’t think I would have prepared to meet and marry my husband,” says Maynard Johnson, 33, who married Tyler Johnson in 2014, two years after her season (they have four children). “I have a clear vision of what I want. And I know that my purpose on earth is to be a mom.”

WATCH: Bachelorette Becca Kufrin on Her Future with Her Fiancé: ‘It’s Going to Be a Good Life!’

No matter what has happened, the women are grateful for the indelible adventure they all shared.

“I didn’t end up with the guy that I picked, but I don’t have any regrets,” says Harris, 39, who split up with fiancé Ed Swiderski after their season aired in 2009, but is now a happily engaged mom of two. “People associate The Bachelor and The Bachelorette with being fake, but the most real I’ve ever been was on this show, 100 percent.”

Adds Fletcher, 28 — 2016’s Bachelorette — who is engaged to her pick, Jordan Rodgers: “My life has changed completely since the show. I’ve grown immensely as a person, and as a woman, and I will forever be grateful for that.”