Before the recession I was hired at an entry-level public librarian position for $38k in 2006. I came into the position after working as a library assistant for just over a year.
I worked at a Collections Agency right after college as a receptionist. Most collectors worth their salt won't pull our their "bad cop" if you show a willingness to work with them to pay the debt off. Try not to hang up on them, but instead ask if you can speak with them at a later time, when you feel more prepared to take the call. Also, make sure to have them send you a breakdown of the debt. Sometimes the company pursuing the debt will tack on extra fees because they know that they will have to turn over some of the returns to the collection agency and want to recoup more of their losses. You can often negotiate those extra charges away and just pay the original bill.