Especially for those studying Chinese
When I first came to CET in Beijing, I was greeted on my desk with a red gift bag containing toilet paper, a bottle of water, a bowl of instant noodles, and a calling card. I was unaware of how helpful that bag of stuff would be until 20 minutes later when I was thirsty (but couldn't drink tap water) and had to use the bathroom (in China, you provide your own toilet paper). I've included what was in my "survival bag", as well as a few other things just in case you're not greeted by the same thing on your desk.
Correction Tape (White Out); RMB 3.50; US $0.55
I like to write in pen, but I also happen to make a lot of mistakes when I'm doing homework or writing essays. If you don't have erasable pens, this is a lifesaver.
Erasable Pens; RMB couldn't tell you; US $4.99
The solution to making mistakes while writing in pen. I've yet to find them in Beijing though, so I recommend bringing some from the States.
Character Essay Paper; RMB 5.50; US $0.87
It can get pretty hard to fit every character inside those tiny boxes, but it does keep your essay a lot neater, and if your teachers are like mine, we have no choice but to use it.
NongFu Spring Bottled Water; RMB 1.20; US $0.19
I repeat this all the time, you can't drink water from the tap in China, so if you don't want to drink boiled water, you have to go the bottled route.
Vinda Toilet Paper; RMB 1.50/Roll, 20.00/Pack; US $0.47/Roll, $3.15/Pack
Another daily necessity, toilet paper. I suggest just buying the whole pack - it's not like you won't use it all.
Ting Yi or Master Kong Noodle Bowls; RMB 3.60; US $0.57
If one of your staples in college is Ramen noodles (just like almost all college students), Master Kong noodle bowls are your Chinese equivalent.
Skippy Peanut Butter; RMB 19.90; US $3.14
If you're like me and don't do Ramen noodles, yes, they do have Skippy here in China. It doesn't matter if you're 5 or 25, in the US or in China, a PB & J sandwich is a great meal substitute.
Bimbo Bread; RMB 4.60; US $0.73
Because you can't have PB & J without the B. I usually go with normal wheat, but the sweet cream variety is pretty good too.
NesCafe Coffee; RMB 36.50; US $5.76
Most people still prefer tea over coffee in China, and while you can buy a coffee maker, NesCafe instant coffee is the much more convenient option...even if it tastes like hot chocolate.
Tsingtao Beer; RMB 3.00; US $0.47
This is the local beer of choice. It's also the study abroad student's beer of choice. It's not a Samuel Adams, but it tastes better than any other beer I drank in college.