Packing enough of the essentials is the most important thing in a student's list. On the other hand, traveling light is also very important.
My advice is to bring sturdy and easy-to-maneuver luggage, because students themselves have to carry their own luggage to each destinations. And, if possible, pack only necessities that are not easy to find in China, like medicine, and good walking shoes if your feet are larger than average.
With my previous experience of over-packing for trips, I only packed a towel, a few sets of clothing, and a small bag of toiletries for our week-long trip to Guiling in southwest China. As the only person to arrive with excess luggage on the first day, I was the lightest packer for our trip. I was extremely happy and proud of myself for it!
While looking for housing in China, it is essential to have proof of everything, from receipts, to deposits, to making sure that you take pictures of things that are broken in your home so you won't be charged for them at the end of your stay. The landlords in China will not take responsibility for anything if they can, so it's better to be prepared with proof for things that were not in top condition when you moved in.
While traveling abroad, who can forget about visiting famous places? While it is nice to have pretty guidebooks to show the different destinations available, in the end you might have to rely on the internet, subway and train for directions to get to your destination. It's a good idea to be familiar with your traveling options once you have arrived and settled down. In Beijing, the bus and subway are the main means of transportation. And while there are plenty of taxis around, it's very hard to flag one down during rush hour.
Most people feel that being in China means cheaper living, and while it's true that prices are lower in China, remember that you'll want to shop for souvenirs while you're here! Exchange some money in the US, and bring a large amount of cash to exchange upon arrival. It is also wise to look up banking options to use in China.
The food is awesome, but be careful at first. It may take your body some time to adapt. I recommend that you bring some over-the-counter medication for an upset stomach and indigestion.
There are plenty of pharmacies around the city, but it's also a good idea to bring some of your own cold medicine, cough drops, chap stick and lotion to last a month or two. Once you are settled in and know the city better, it's easier to find things you need.
Air quality in Beijing can be a problem sometimes. Here I am with a friend in downtown Beijing at the National Stadium, famously known as the Bird's Nest, which was built when China hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics! There are some very smoggy days in Beijing. In addition, sanitation is still a bit behind in this country and most restrooms in the country do not have soap, so always carry hand sanitizer with you.
During the year at Peking University, there will be two long breaks: a ten day one during the first week of October, and a longer winter break from mid-January to mid-February. During the October break, the CSU Resident Director will most likely organize a trip for the CSU group, so that break is already taken.
You should plan ahead for the one-month break you will have during the winter. A good, reliable, local website I recommend for finding affordable airfare is
CTrip, which has both a Chinese and an English site.
Learn more about the study abroad program in China