Julia Stiles, who showed she could bust a move with the best of them in 10 Things I Hate About You, admits that no amount of dance experience could have prepared her for her role in the new romantic drama

Save the Last Dance, opening today.

"At the beginning of the dance training I was like, 'I thought I was a good dancer!'" Stiles tells TV Guide Online. "It's very intimidating." But the young actress quickly rose to the occasion. "I love to dance, and this was the perfect opportunity to do two kinds: ballet, which I gave up when I was little and sort of wanted to revisit, and hip-hop, which I really enjoyed."

Like her Dance alter ego, Stiles was first introduced to hip-hop in a diverse school setting. "I had the experience of being, like, the only white girl in an all-black school in junior high, so I felt familiar with a lot of the things that happened to her," she relates. "Hip-hop culture was dominant, and so I tried to fit into it.

"I think I faked a lot in junior high school," she adds. "I had the door-knocker earrings. I even had a Puerto Rican accent for a while."

These days, Stiles has more than come into her own with a role in the acclaimed David Mamet comedy, State and Main, and an upcoming stint opposite Matt Damon in Bourne Identity. Meanwhile, she just completed her first semester at Columbia, and admits she's adjusting nicely. "It was really just different for me because I could wake up and look scruffy and not have to worry about getting hair and make-up done," she says, before adding with a laugh, "It's weird that that's the first thing I say about college!"