WGBH News' Kirk Carapezza and I recently returned from a trip to Germany, where we visited a handful of cities and universities, working on a series about higher education in the country.

From the series website:

While there, we visited Bayer's chemical factory to learn more about Germany's famous vocational system. We also spent time in an elementary classroom, to see how Germany tracks and separates children at a young age based on ability.

Below are some of my behind-the-scenes photos and observations.

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We arrived in Cologne at the beginning of February, just before the end of the semester. Universities in Germany work on a different time-table, with a Winter Semester and Summer semester, instead of Fall and Spring.

As soon as we landed, we met up with a group of Americans who are studying in Germany. They meet regularly to "café-hop" on Sundays. The particular Sunday we were there was actually Super Bowl Sunday and we laughed at the irony of a group of American college students sipping their espressos and eating pastries, instead of chowing down on chips 'n' dip and sipping Bud Light.

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For a radio story, you're constantly thinking about getting natural sound, or background noise, to help give listeners a sense of place. Here's Kirk Carapezza making sure we have the sound of the espresso machine in case we want it.

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Unlike American universities, the University of Cologne doesn't have any staff dedicated to giving tours. Still, the school provided us with a Ph.D. student who was happy to show us around. Valerija Schwarz was actually born in Russia, but has lived in Germany since she was young.

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I graduated from a large state school, and the facilities, classrooms and cafeterias at the University of Cologne felt very similar to Virginia Tech: large, spare and clean. Architecturally, there was a real sense of modernity: no ivy-covered brick buildings.

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We asked Valerija to show us the university gift shop and she laughed. While there were some t-shirts for sale, we didn't see any students wearing one, and there weren't any bumper stickers either.

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We also visited the University of Heidelberg, about a two-hour drive south of Cologne on the Autobahn. The library there was beautiful, but dead-silent. I cringed every time my camera shutter clicked.

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A birds-eye view of Heidelberg. The weather in Germany was cold and grey the entire time we were there, and the sun didn't rise until 8 a.m.

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In our first story, you can hear the University of Cologne's symphony play. Every pew in the large church where they performed was filled.

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We spent one evening with the Park-Kim family in Essen, Germany. They have three young children, which makes it difficult to interview in quiet. So I handed over the role of journalist and played baby-sitter for an hour so Kirk could interview Jane and Johaness in peace.

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Even though their children are still young, Jane Park and Johaness Kim are already planning for their future: They just don't know yet if that will be American colleges or German ones. You can hear their story here.

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Expat Jay Malone showed us around the old-town ofSiegen, where he lived when he attended the university there. Unfortunately, his favorite schnitzel place had closed after being open for 600 years. That night we ate Italian, what a shame.

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Interviewing children for the radio can be tough, throw a translator into the mix and things get even harder. The day we visited this elementary school inEssen, the class was just beginning a lesson on the history of the bicycle. They would soon be taking a test, a sort of driver's-license for a bike.

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Touring Bayer's chemical production factory in Leverkusen felt like a man's world. I was the one woman among the group of men that traveled from room-to-room.

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That observation held true among the apprentices as well. I only saw one young female participating in Bayer's vocational training. Recruiters there told me they struggle each year to convince young women to apply for the training program.

To read On Campus' entire series, you can visit WGBH News' Higher Education blog.