In 2004, a class of six students traveled with three faculty mentors to seven Alaska communities as part of a course designed to ground young researchers' aspirations in the pragmatics of collaborative, community-based research. This paper, authored by the students involved, discusses the process from start to finish. Beginning researchers in rural health are often daunted not by a lack of ability or ideas, but by basic issues of logistics, trust and respect. Unfortunately, they tend to remain unacquainted with these considerations until something goes wrong, and come to frame the research process as a succession of hindrances to be overcome rather than a fluid and collaborative endeavor. By placing students in working relationships with rural residents and Native elders at an early stage, the project aims to minimize common missteps and shorten the learning curve. It is hoped that our experiences can point the way toward similar efforts.