"I was like, 'I've never been this close to another human being,'" the 18-year-old tells PEOPLE


Yara Shahidi has played Zoey Johnson on Black-ish since she was 14 years old, which means she has experienced a lot of her “firsts” on camera.

Shahidi, who is now 18 and the star of the show’s spinoff series, Grown-ish, says she recently had her first slow dance on the Freeform show.

“A lot of fake firsts, on Grown-ish,” Shahidi tells PEOPLE while sitting down for this year’s The Beautiful Issue. “I promise you that was not Adderall I was taking. That was a sugar pill. I checked, I read the label. And I even realized, episode 12, like the episode that just aired, that was my first slow dance. I was like, ‘I’ve never been this close to another human being.'”

Although the actress’s character on the show is attending college for the first time, Shahidi won’t experience her freshman year until this fall, when she attends Harvard University, where she “hopes a whole lot will be different” from her experience on the show.

Credit: Mei Tao
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“Of course, I’m not Zoey, and so I don’t think I will have three guys pining over me,” she says. “Nor do I think, I mean, I can say this as a fact, Adderall is not my thing, that is not my thing. And so we’re going to have very different experiences, which I’m really looking forward to, because of course I think Grown-ish college is nice, and of course, it’s taught me a whole lot about college that I didn’t know before, but it is cool to live a very alternative experience, and not feel as though my own college experience is being taken away from me.”

“I get to live a new, authentic experience, that’s going to be so different from what we do on-set,” she adds.

Shahidi says experiencing “fake college” on the show has equipped her with the confidence to share advice with people who will be attending Harvard alongside her.

“I’d have to say fake college has made me very popular amongst my friends from real college,” she says.

Shahidi, who will be double concentrating in social studies and African American studies, says she’s mostly looking forward to her classes.

“I’ve heard from other college students the perks of going to college, but what I’m personally most looking forward to is really taking those obscure classes that you can only find in a college setting,” she says. “And just being in a new environment, a new educational environment, a new social environment, overarchingly it’s just all brand new to me.”