It was nearly a decade ago when Ingrid Senne received her diploma from Vermillion High School.

If you asked her back then what she’d be doing in 10 years, it’s unlikely that she’d reply that she had plans to teach Spanish. In Panama. In her very own school.

“I could never have imagined that,” Ingrid, 27, the daughter of Lana Svien of Vermillion and Ron Senne of Rapid City said during a phone conversation from her home in Pedasi, Panama.

Ingrid continued her studies after her 2003 graduation from VHS at the University of California – Santa Cruz, where she majored in Spanish and Portuguese linguistics. After those studies were complete, she joined her then-boyfriend, now husband, Roy Caduri, in Panama.

“We did long distance, back and forth for awhile, and then I just ended up moving down to Panama, and I had no idea what I’d be doing here,” she said. “But, I did have a degree in Spanish, and as it turns out, there are a lot of foreigners who move here who don’t speak Spanish.

“There was a niche market for Spanish classes, and that’s how I got into it,” Ingrid said.

At first, Ingrid would simply visit the homes of her students to offer them lessons in Spanish.

“But I just really got tired of walking around with a bag full of books to people’s houses, so I decided to just open a school,” she said.

Ingrid is the owner and operator of the Buena Vida Language School, touted as Pedasi’s premier Spanish language school. It opened in August 2011.

“We have three teachers working here, and students from all over the world, really – Canadians, Americans, Israelis, Italians, just to name a few, and we do have English classes now for the local Panamanians,” she said.

The Buena Vida Language School is currently located in a small building in Pedasi that Ingrid leases. On average, the enrollment maintains at approximately 30 students.

“A goal of mine is to eventually build our school and build a nice facility that is designed for a language school,” Ingrid said. “Right now, we work in a house that we’ve converted – we’ve converted the rooms into classrooms, and social areas, but it would be nice to one day build and have a specially-designed school.”

Ingrid’s journey in Spanish education began when she was a student at Vermillion High School. “When I completed all of the classes that were available at VHS, I did go my junior and senior years to USD and took some classes there. I was lucky to have that opportunity,” she said.

She continued that line of study at the University of California – Santa Cruz.

“It (the Spanish language) always just came naturally for me, it always came very easily for me, and it was always something that I really, really enjoyed,” Ingrid said. “Most of all, I really like to help people communicate.

I enjoy it when two cultures are able to communicate because of the help of a bilingual person.

“It’s a people thing – it’s helping people to bridge gaps culturally that I really enjoy about this work,” she said.

Ingrid never loses sight of the unique circumstances that have fully immersed in a career that she loves.

“It is pretty much happenstance. I got really lucky to have this opportunity and to be able to work at something that I truly enjoy,” she said. “I feel fortunate.”