After six incredible seasons starring on "The Vampire Diaries," Nina Dobrev says she is finally ready to "graduate" onto the next level in her career.

Last month, Dobrev confirmed that she will not return for Season 7 of the hit The CW series in her leading role as Elena Gilbert. Instead, the 26-year-old actress says she has played the role of a student for 12 years of her life and now wants to trek new ground in Hollywood.

"I always came to work excited, and looking forward to the next thing I got to do," she told The Hollywood Reporter"It was almost like actor boot camp, or a college experience. I started college in real life, but I never finished. I went to high school in real life, and then went to "Degrassi" high school, and then four years as Elena -- 12 years is a long time to go to school. I need to graduate! I'm ready now. I'm ready to go into the real world. I've literally grown up on this show. I was a baby when I started, and now I'm a woman."

She added that "It's been a great journey, but at the end of the day, I'm not actually a vampire. The fairy tale has to end, and the next chapter has to begin."

"I knew this was my time, and I'm excited for the next step. I am very sad that I'm not going to get to spend every day with my favorite people in the world, but, that's why we have FaceTime and phone calls. Friendships are like vampires: They'll last forever if they're real," she said.

The Bulgarian-Canadian actress and model went on to say that she contemplated with the decision to leave the show for years.

"I've known [I was leaving] for such a long time -- for a couple of years -- so it's been a big secret I've been having to keep for a while," she said.

However, many of the fans of the popular romantic drama struggled to accept her decision to leave.

"Once people finally knew, people were really upset and outspoken," said Dobrev.

"But ultimately, supportive, which I was very appreciative of. It was strange, one of the days after it was announced, I had people come up to me in the street, crying, like, 'What are you doing?' and angry. And then I told them and they were like, 'You go, girl. Do your thing. We support you. We can't wait to see what you're doing next.' It's 50-50 [support]," she said.

Dobrev went on to describe her last day on set, and the prank that the show staff played on her.

"My last scene was with Ian Somerhalder [Damon], and we were shooting a scene I can't talk about outside that was very beautiful," she added.

Dobrev said she wore a gown and they were outside. A camera operator made her believe that there was something in her hair. He then gave her a big hug, and wouldn't let her move. That's when the crew dumped cake and whipped creamon her. 

"And they filmed it," she said. "And put confetti and a whole bunch of stuff [on me]. It was amazing. I couldn't have been happier for that to be my sendoff. I knew something was coming; I could feel it in my bones. I'm a prankster, I would cake people on set all the time, but no one ever got me. And they got me good this time. If they hadn't done something like that on my last scene, I would have been really disappointed. That's how I knew they were my real family. That's what family does. They don't tell you what you want to hear, they tell you the truth. And they have fun with you, and they make you laugh, and they make you cry, and they see you at your worst."